AbGradEPEC 2023 – a Joint Meeting for Early Career Researchers in Astrobiology 

AbGradEPEC 2023 – a Joint Meeting for Early Career Researchers in Astrobiology  

After a three-year wait to hold the AbGradEPEC meeting, former AbGradE President, Ruth-Sophie Taubner, and current President, Silvana Pinna, share highlights of the event. 

Read article in the fully formatted PDF of the Europlanet Magazine.

After years of planning, AbGradEPEC’23 finally took place between 4-6 May 2023, just before the Biennial European Astrobiology Conference (BEACON) on the island of La Palma (Spain). Postponed since April 2020 due to a global pandemic and a volcanic eruption, we were thrilled – contrary to the saying ‘anticipation is the greatest joy’ – to welcome about 60 attendees to ‘La Isla Bonita’. The event was co-organised by Astrobiology Graduates in Europe (AbGradE) and the Europlanet Early Careers (EPEC) Network. 

AbGradEPEC’23 kicked off with an ice-breaker, in the evening of 3 May, featuring an astrobiological pub quiz. The following day we opened the meeting with a ‘Science speed dating’ session, followed by more than 20 keynotes and contributed talks addressing topics such as the ‘Limits of life’, ‘Life on Mars’, and ‘Prebiotic chemistry’. In the evening, we organised a well-received poster session with 21 posters. 

Day two began with a session on ‘Astronomy’, followed by a workshop from one of our keynote speakers, Nader Haghighipour, who shared insights on ‘How to develop a career being an astrobiologist’. In the afternoon, we embarked on an exciting trip to the new lava fields of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, which erupted during the last months of 2021. On the third and final day of our meeting, we started with a workshop on ‘Mental Health in Academia’, facilitated by psychologist Raphael Taubner, which was followed by an overview by Nigel Mason entitled ‘Tips and strategies to survive the academic career’. Eloi Camprubi concluded the meeting with a panel discussion, in which researchers at different stages of their career path shared their experiences. 

For many of our attendees, AbGradEPEC’23 marked their first in-person astrobiology meeting ever. We were very happy to provide so many early careers with the opportunity to connect with their peers and have their inaugural ‘conference experience’ with us. This was only possible thanks to the financial support of the EAI, Europlanet, EANA, and the MDPI-Journal, Symmetry, which enabled us to award more than 30 accommodation grants and poster awards. We look forward to continuing the successful collaboration between AbGradE and EPEC, with hopes of reconvening at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2024 in Berlin.

AbGradE: https://abgrade.eu 

Issue 5 of Europlanet Magazine