AIMMS PhD students joining ULLA Summer School

Highlights of the Summer School in Helsinki

08/15/2019 | 9:27 AM

ULLA logo

This year’s 14th ULLA summer school for doctoral students has taken place between June 29th and July 6th in Helsinki, Finland. ULLA, founded in 1992, is a European Consortium for (postgraduate) training in the field of Pharmaceutical Sciences. The summer school takes its name from the founding city universities: Uppsala, London, Leiden and Amsterdam. With more universities joined, now counts up to nine universities from around Europe. The summer school is a popular event with up to 175 PhD students from all participating universities joining this year.

The week started on Saturday June 29th with an opening ceremony, before the opening PhD students were handed out a bag with a T-shirt, bottle, and coffee cup highlighting the importance of sustainable use of products. Subsequent opening ceremony, Prof. Jouni Hirvonen and Prof. Hannu Sariola, communicated the importance of collaborations within Universities. They gave interesting examples of successful collaborations (NordForsk) between universities within Scandinavian countries. 

João Pedro Martins, Shirin Tavakoli and Otto Kari introduced all the attendees to both the social and scientific program of the week, respectively. This was followed by a diverse opening seminar, consisting of three plenary speakers: Prof Vincenzo Cerullo (Helsinki university), Prof. Jukka Rantanen (Copenhagen university), and Prof. Arto Urtti (Helsinki university).

Prof. Vincenzo Cerullo had an interesting talk, giving an insight into new strategies to combat cancer. He is currently using viruses dressed in “tumors clothing’’ as possible vaccines against cancer. Prof. Jukka Rantanen then talked about future pharmaceuticals manufacturing and showed us some interesting examples of how new drugs might be 3D printed and traceable by printing them within a QR code. The plenary talk session was closed by Prof. Arto Urtti, who took the time to stress the importance of scientific integrity. He highlighted some examples of scientific fraud and shared his concerns about the current trends in publications of new studies. Scientific publications are mainly focused on career prospect rather than sharing of new discoveries and quantity seems to be more important than quality.  

The scientific program of the week was packed with a wide variety of interesting one-day, to two-day courses (44 courses) covering a total of 8 topics. The topics ranged from Analytical chemistry to pharmacokinetics, -dynamics and drug safety, and also general skills courses could be selected. Dedicated and enthusiastic teachers made it a very successful and interesting program which was dynamic and hugely interactive.

Beyond the academic components of the summer school, the atmosphere and environment facilitated social interactions between PhD students from the different universities. Very convenient was the location of both hotel and summer school venue, bang in the city Centre of Helsinki. Furthermore, several social activities were organized by the dedicated group of organizers over the course of the week.

ULLA building

The first social activity consisted of a creative city walk, where all PhDs from the different universities were split up in groups. The different groups had to take pictures of a selection of landmarks within the city of Helsinki. The creative twist given to the pictures would be decisive in the selection of the winning team.  

One of the favored social events during the summer school was the ULLA Cup. The ULLA cup was first initiated in Leuven four years ago and designed for all joining universities to compete against each other. The cup was held at the Helsinki beach. This year’s cup consisted of a sports tournament where four sports: Basketball, Frisbee, Volleyball, and the traditional Finish game Mölkky, were played. The day was closed by a dinner and party on the beach where the freshly brewed ULLA beers were served among the refreshments.

On Monday July 1st, the city of Helsinki invited all the participants of the summer school to a reception in the City hall. Here, the minister of education and the mayor of Helsinki gave a small speech stressing the importance of education and the role international collaborations can add to this.

The week was finalized with a gala dinner in special venue right behind the Uspenski Cathedral. During this event the prices were given out to the winners of the poster prices and ULLA cup. Three scientific poster prices could be won in three categories of best poster pitch, best poster appearance, and best poster overall. These were won by Liliana Capinha (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Fernando Lozano Vigario (Leiden University), and Andrea Benediktsdottir (Uppsalla University), respectively. The ULLA cup was unanimously won by Parma university Italy. The following event’s dinner and party was a major success and continued into the late hours. 

We, from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, would like to greatly thank the organizers of the ULLA summer school 2019. The entire week was meticulously planned and with their positive energy, the organizers made the entire event run smoothly and successfully for all the attendees. We would like to give a special shout-out to the developers of the ULLA application for portable devices. It was a very handy guide for all participants during the entire event.

ULLA winner complete picture