IRTG 1064 Retreat 2022: Summer Serenissima in San Servolo
An Extraordinary Venue
After an almost 4 year retreat break – due to an international symposium year in 2019, and then to the pandemic – we have a generation of IRTG members who had never attended an IRTG retreat. For this re-launch of IRTG retreats, we were therefore motivated to organize a very special program in a very special venue: in the VIU (Venice International University) facilities on the Isola di San Servolo, Venice. The schedule included a vigorous scientific program as well as team-building and networking activities. A large group of 39 IRTG members participated.
The Scientific Program
"Try your hand at … Graphical Abstracts": According to guidelines and assigned feedback groups, participants made sketches of graphical abstracts to describe their projects. In the course of the morning a final product was completed, and after lunch we had two exhibition sessions, where people presented their abstracts in a concise poster-presentation format. The abstracts were impressive – works for posterity! – results of ambitious sketches, good peer feedback, and focus. The resulting interested discussion persisted beyond the presentation session throughout the retreat.
Science improvisation sketches: Assigned groups of 5 or 6 creatively addressed surprise topics (provided by the project leaders – thanks to Philipp, Till, Catherine, Michaela and Axel) ranging from gelato in chromatin flavors, top-secret codes, Murano beads-on-a-string, contact with extraterrestrial life forms, artificial intelligence and response to climate change. After a session of brainstorming and rehearsal, the groups presented their sketches. The results were intelligent, amusing (at times hilarious), lyrical, musical, thought-provoking ... unforgettable!
The Team-Building Program
The whole retreat, with mixing and mingling during the scientific sessions, was a team-builder, but of course we used the opportunity of being in Venice to explore and experience the city together. Smaller interest groups went on various excursions: to the Biennale, the beach on the Lido, exploring the sestiere of Venice and all they have to offer. There were informal night-cap get-togethers on the South Point of the island, and on our final evening, we enjoyed a group dinner together in an authentic Venetian ristorante.
In the final IRTG meeting before we departed San Servolo, all agreed the program was a success. But the success of the retreat cannot be totally attributed to the planned program. Some things cannot be planned – they happen because of chemistry in the group.
The added value of the retreat can really best be described by how the group interacted inclusively, interested in each other and respective projects, enthusiastically sharing and exchanging ideas. These are all qualities that will continue to be assets for these doctoral researchers, their projects and their careers. This diverse and dynamic group really made the retreat memorable. We will work hard to sustain this energy and connectedness in the IRTG throughout the next years.