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Empowering Early Career Researchers in Microplastics: Workshop Highlights

Microplastics Workshop for early career researchers - family photo

Following its successful debut in 2022 in Athens, the second edition of the Microplastics Workshop for Early Career Researchers took place in Monte Verità, Switzerland, from 12 to 17 November. This workshop was proudly sponsored by Plastics Europe, along with Nexus MonARC, the Royal Society of Chemistry, Bruker, Congressi Stefano Franscini, and organised by Denise Mitrano, Karin Mattsson, Stephan Wagner and Andreas Gondikas.

The event focused on providing early career researchers (ECRs) in the field of microplastics with valuable information that will not only help them to navigate the global challenge of microplastics but also strengthen their network with leading experts in environmental microplastics research and colleagues alike. At the same time, it offered essential tools to bolster their future careers, both within and outside academia.

The workshop centred around three key elements:

  1. Keynote lectures by experts outlining the current state of microplastics research, showcasing advancements and challenges in the field.
  2. Interactive sessions, which allowed students to engage with experts, fostering scientific discussions and networking among participants.
  3. Student development sessions aimed to equip young researchers with essential career-building skills for their academic and professional pursuits.

Attendees, coming from universities and research centres all over the world, were also introduced to the practice of peer-reviewing. Tasked with critiquing others’ writing samples, the exercise allowed them to build on each other’s feedback to improve their writing style and content. With insights from invited experts, including Microplastics Technical Manager at Plastics Europe, Camilla Carteny, participants honed other career skills such as grant writing and CV building.

Furthermore, the Workshop pinpointed transferable skills, delved into exploring various career paths, and discussed fundamental themes such as ethics in science, the interplay between science and policy, and the tools of science communication.

The scope of this yearly workshop is essential for the field of microplastics research, an area that attracts diverse disciplines, ranging from polymer chemistry to environmental science and human and ecotoxicologists. Filling the communication gaps between these different areas of research is crucial as it helps early career researchers to broaden their perspectives and evaluate studies more effectively, thus training the next generation of microplastics researchers and granting them the tools to address the multiple challenges of this topic.

For a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by ECRs in the microplastics field, we invite you to explore this scientific publication, conceived after the first Microplastics ECR Workshop in 2022. The next edition is scheduled to take place in Idstein, Germany, in November 2024. Stay tuned for more information.