Monthly Archives: April 2016

Report HUB22 – Visual perspectives in science

This page includes a short summary of what took place at HUB22 – Visual perspectives in science, together with feedback and reflection on the event from several of the HUB organisers.

Summary of HUB22

This HUB was the second time we’ve tied an unseminar in with the VizBi conference series, using the unseminar as a social event for conference participants, as well as a chance for the local HUB community to meet up with the conference participants.

We were very happy with the turn-out for the event (50 or so), and that it was a good mix of locals and conference participants. It’s always exciting to have some out-of-town speakers at the unseminars, which we had this time through one of the flash talks, and from Jan Aert’s super-quick introduction to ideas associated with data visualisation for science.

We also tried out something new for HUB – a session using improvisational dance, in this case to visualise London Underground station usage data. This was led by local dance teacher and dance therapist Ariane Konrad, who everyone we spoke with greatly enjoyed working with. Hopefully we can find some interesting contexts for some further collaborations with her in the future!

Another highlight was the amazing work done in the dative exercise at the HUB on making a video to visualise London Underground passenger usage data by David Ma and Francis Rowland!

We were also glad to have food and refreshments made available through the support of de.NBI – thanks to them, and all participants of the event!

Feedback from HUB organisers

Laura Howes

If there was one thing I think was clear to me on reflection, a simpler programme has benefits and allows you to concentrate on:

  • delivering what you want well
  • allowing time and effort for issues like diversity
  • reducing stress

In that spirit and as requested… things I liked

  • props on the signage
  • loved trying something new (dance)
  • the numbers and engagement of participants was great

Things to be improved

  • it generally felt a bit rushed (too much on?)
  • all male and pale speakers
  • mismatch between info on web and where we actually went for post HUB-drinks.

That said I agree that Flo did a great job and I’ve heard some very good feedback so I think again it’s a case of making sure that knowing we could do better doesn’t cloud the ability to appreciate what we achieved.



Adam Gristwood

Things I liked:

  • having a choice of activities – the dance routine was awesome.
  • talks – although a bit more visualisation stuff would have been good, eg. more videos.
  • the starting time! Personal preference but was nice not to have to rush out of work early.
  • range of participants – is fantastic to have people who work outside HD at these events.
  • organisation/mcing was great.

Things to do differently:

  • give people opportunity to present what they learnt (dance routine got some time, but would have been great to hear some of the others)
  • calmer programme
  • someone to take responsibility for guiding people to the pub afterwards?
  • check the destination on a bus when responsible for guiding a large group of people across town!
  • female speakers

Aidan Budd

I really enjoyed seeing some ‘old friends’ again at the HUB – including Gustavo (one of the people who kick-started the Cape Town unseminars, he’s now at EMBL-EBI in Hinxton) and Maria, who was in Paris for several years, and is now back nearish to here, and it turns out worked in Florian’s lab before she left. Small world, eh?!

I thought Florian did a great job yesterday – looked like the evening was very well received. Thanks for that, Florian! And to all the others who worked hard to make it a success.

Things I particularly liked:

  •  the venue fitted the purpose and our activities well
  • the ice breaker was super-simple (in some ways) and went very well
  • trying something different (and I think fun) with the dance
  • Florian’s MCing

Things I think we could do differently:

  • a less full program, for exactly the reasons Laura gives above. I know it’s really hard to keep the number of things you do in an event low (whenever I organise a course, it’s always so hard to say ‘we can do without that’) – but I think, in retrospect, we could have made two HUBs out of this – one on optical illusions, one on data viz, and then both would not have felt so rushed etc.
  • no questions after Flash talks – if people want to talk with the flashtalkes, they can grab them afterwards
  • have more diverse speakers

Malvika’s SciFund writing assignment about HUB

The text below is a blog written by HUB/WUBSyB participant Malvika Sharan, as an assignment for an online course she participated in offered by SciFund challenge for scientific outreach.

Un-seminar in Bioinformatics, it’s finally happening!

I am Malvika Sharan, a PhD student at the University of Würzburg. My target audience includes graduate students and researchers in and around Würzburg, Germany, who are working in the fields of bioinformatics and systems biology.

As a PhD student of bioinformatics (working in a research group where most people are experimental biologists), attending bio-computational conferences has always made me feel like home where everyone talks the same technical language as me (maybe a bit more fluently)!


One of the sessions of Heidelberg Unseminars in Bioinformatics at EMBL. Image by Adam Gristwood. Source:

In one such conference in 2013, while I was still trying to figure out my scientific interests as a ‘first-year-PhD-student’, I signed up for a side-event called ‘Birds of a feather (BoF)’ on ‘Unseminars’. At this event, I learnt that an ‘unseminar’ (which was apparently not a printing mistake for ‘seminar’) refers to a participant-driven unconventional seminar. We, as participants, could choose topics and share our scientific interests with like-minded people in a completely laid-back environment.


Aidan Budd addressing an unseminar. Image by Matthew Betts

Without doubt, this was one of the most welcoming events I ever attended. Aidan Budd, who worked as a computational biologist at European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, was the organizer of this event. He enthusiastically shared his approach of using unseminar as a tool for community building and introduced us to Heidelberg Unseminars in Bioinformatics (HUB) that he had co-founded in Heidelberg.

This experience motivated my supervisor, Konrad, and me to organize a similar event to bring bioinformatics enthusiasts together in our university. We kept in touch with Aidan and contributed to a crowd-sourced effort of writing a scientific article on unseminars and unconferences that got published early this year.

Video filmed at HUB7

Meanwhile, during several events in my university, I met quite a few researchers who have been working in diverse fields of computational biology: those who don’t get an opportunity or platform for interacting with other groups that share their interests.


Nike’s famous philosophy: “JUST DO IT”. Source: WikiMedia commons

Now, more than ever, I felt a desperate need to revisit the idea of bringing the bioinformatics community together in my university. As a ‘final-year-PhD-student’, I have developed teaching skills, organized several events in my graduate school, participated in several hours of unseminar-discussions with my colleagues and gained outreach knowledge from the SciFund challenge training. It looks like the right time has come to “JUST DO IT” (so says the Nike-box on my shoe-stand)!

Well, there it is! A not-too-elaborate background story of the unseminar event that is finally happening in our institute (Institute for Molecular Infection Biology, University of Würzburg) on November 18, 2015 at 5:00 pm. We have set up a basic webpage and sent out invitations to everyone in the university. The response so far is encouraging and I am eager to see how this turns out.

If you have any suggestions, experiences, or anecdotes to share, feel free to get in touch with us!


Now that the first Würzburg WUBSyB has been held, I can report that it was attended by more than 30 researchers from different institutes in University of Würzburg. Due to common interest we would be organizing it on second Thursday of each month.