Interview : MiFoBio, ten years after.
In 2004 was launched the first edition of the MiFoBio CNRS Thematic School, created by the GDR(2588)-MIV (Microscopy and Imaging of Life) with the participation of the Technological Network, RTmfm. Yves Usson and Laurent Heliot, both former and actual directors of the GDR MIV, are back on the adventure. They answer a 7 points questionnaire on main goals and organization of MiFoBio, changes experienced over the years and assessment, vision for the next ten years.
Starting from biological questions and models up to data analysis, using up to date microscopy setup or even prototypes, to acquire data. During this school, we are all teachers and apprentices regardless of the rank or age.Yves Usson
MiFOBio is more than a thematic school. It allows to anticipate the next advances and to mobilize upstream new scientists of the communities, on technological aspects, thematic in biology or physic and image analysis. Laurent Héliot
What was your main goal in creating MiFoBio in 2004?
MiFOBio Microscopie Fonctionnelle en Biologie – functional microscopy in biology) is a summer school of the CNRS. Rapidly after the GDR-MIV (microscopy and imaging for life) was created in 2003, it emerged that we needed a recurrent scientific « rendez-vous » during which the scientific disciplines represented in the GDR could mix. Organizing a conference was rapidly discarded because this formula does not really encourage the mixing of diverse communities while our aim was to create real exchanges and to foster new approaches (trans-disciplinarity). The main tool, although not the only one, we chosen was the organization of real “hands-on” workshops, starting from biological questions and models up to data analysis, using up to date microscopy setup or even prototypes, to acquire data. Actually, this responded quite well to both the needs of a broad community and to our objective to favour the “get together” of scientists from biology, physics, chemistry, instrumentation, signal analysis. Being around a microscope makes these scientists accepting everyone to be ignorant of the knowledge of the others, but willing to share his own! During this school, we are all teachers and apprentices regardless of the rank or age. In 2004 with the MRCT (CNRS), we also created a technology network (RTmfm) that brought to the game, the microscopy core facility engineers. RTmfm was naturally associated to the organization of the thematic school and today it represents one of the main task force of MiFoBio.
How did you get the idea of a thematic school in biophotonic and biological imaging?
The program was soon a success with 150 participants for the first edition in 2004, on the island of Oléron. Since 2010, we passed more than 450 requests to participate.
The organization of MiFoBio was the main outcome of the first General Assembly of the GDR2588-MIV (microscopy and imaging for life). During this meeting we defined what would be the main scientific activities of our GDR. In 2003, with Bernard Vandenbunder we had organized an interdisciplinary school at Ambleuteuse (Pas de Calais) in connection with the creation of the Interdisciplinary Research Institute in Lille (IRI). This type of trainings is typically one week long and organized in an “out-of the-way place”, which facilitates interaction. However, most often these events do not have important practical sets. At that time, the ELMI meeting (European Light Microscopy Network) was running since 2 years and proposed in addition to conference sessions, workshops set up by private companies heading the microscopy field. A number of us were participating to the organization of the 2 first ELMI meetings (EMBL (funding meeting) and Italy 2001, France 2002). We took advantage of both experiences. But we wanted to foster interactivity and the use of real and live biological sample. In MiFoBio, workshops are realized by the academic scientists sometimes in collaboration with industrial representatives, on microscopy systems provided by manufacturers. It is always delightful to see how our colleagues from the private sector answer the demanding requirements of MiFoBio, over the years!
We will never thank them all enough, for their fidelity and active commitment. The program was soon a success with 150 participants for the first edition in 2004, on the island of Oléron. Since 2010, we passed more than 450 requests to participate. In this respect, we feel very unfortunate to have started to limit the number of attendees.
Who is responsible for the thematic school?
MiFoBio is born from the collective will of the steering Committee of GDR2588-MIV. To be more precise MiFobio is organized as a modular triptych form: Courses-lectures, workshops, round tables. Its organization is coordinated since the beginning by Laurent Héliot, (IRI, Lille) with a committee constituted of 30 people. Some are members of the executive committees of the GDR and RTmfm, recently some are members of FBI. The thematic of courses-modules and organization of workshops are discussed in the organizing committee which then ensures the practical implementation of the school. Since 2012, Serge Monneret (Institut Fresnel, Marseille) is the co-coordinator of the school. In 2014, MiFoBio brought together over 440 people (participants, organizers, speakers, industrials). In total 58 courses and seminars, 80 distinct workshops, more than 20 advanced courses and round-tables were organized in 2014, which make miFoBio a kind of “à la carte” School. During one full week, MiFoBio works daily as a buzzing beehive, from 8 am to midnight. Much later than bees, in fact !
What changes has experienced MiFoBio school?
The program has evolved in each edition to be adapted to the advanced in the field of biophotonics and bioimaging, the evolution of the community and its training needs. We can consider two phases since 2004. Until 2008 the first three editions created a real national interdisciplinary community in bioimaging by developing interdisciplinary knowledge based on the acquisition of common vocabulary and concepts. In the same period, microscopy has seen great progresses. Let’s just mention the two Nobel Prizes of chemistry 2008 and 2014. The number of participants dramatically and quickly increased. This led to new technical problems (electricity, size of the grow room, overall cost, …).
In the same period, microscopy has seen great progresses. Let’s just mention the two Nobel Prizes of chemistry 2008 and 2014.
Since 2010, MiFoBio has started a new phase on the basis of an interdisciplinary community that is now in place. This is marked by more scientists working on digital image processing and more home-made systems from physics laboratory during the workshops. Since 2010 the organizing committee was strengthened and structured to meet the new requirements around workshops.
In addition we have inserted studies on new biological models, such as Xenopus and zebrafish. This second phase is also marked by the invitation of more and more foreign colleagues. Some who are now proposing to organize workshops, as well! Not to forget our special this year, with the presence of Eric Betzig the eve of his nomination for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
What finally brought the school Thematic?
It strongly contributed to recent advances in understanding life, and this is just the beginning.
MiFOBio school has created a dynamic interdisciplinary community of both researchers and engineers from different disciplines and technological areas around imaging life, beyond institutional structures. “Biophotonics” is not a clearly defined discipline but rather a thematic field exploring biology through other disciplines. It strongly contributed to recent advances in understanding life, and this is just the beginning. Specifically, the contributions of MiFoBio results in technological “premières”, fruitful, innovative and long term collaborations, in academic-industrials partnerships with both market indicators or pure scientific results (publications).
But above all, MiFoBio allows for anyone to advance in the understanding of how to apply technology to science
. We can only hope that each participant becomes a little less ignorant after MiFoBio, but we are sure that each becomes more “interdisciplinary”.
What is your assessment after ten years of existence ?
This can be resumed in a few words: we did not anticipate its actual size and its notoriety.
This can be resumed in a few words: we did not anticipate its actual size and its notoriety. This is nice, but it can lead to some organization problems such as mobilization of resources, duration of the organizing phase. Until last session MiFoBio was an itinerant thematic school. This is motivating but logistically time consuming. This year we experienced to come back at the same place as in 2010, for the first time. MifoBio mobilizes a lot of voluntaries in the GDR and RTmfm. It will be insane to propose one MiFoBio every year, which however will better address the always growing demands. Work and pilot events are going on this matter. Together with FBI, we now have launched the FBI-AT (Advanced Training) in an alternate timing (year between two miFoBio sessions).
This is a more focused training event, with fewer participants, but which should complete the overall activities of MiFoBio. To make it short, MiFoBio is a kind of “a la carte” school while FBI-AT is more designed as training “au menu”.
Are you proud of the success of MiFoBio ? How do you see the next ten years?
For sure, we are proud! It is a real success, the high quality of the lectures, the diversity and high technological grade of the proposed workshops makes it a unique scientific school in Europe and probably in the world. The friendly atmosphere, not forgetting some recreation sessions, is also an essential key of the MiFoBIo success. MiFOBio is more than a thematic school. It allows to anticipate the next advances and to mobilize upstream new scientists of the communities, on technological aspects, thematic in biology or physic and image analysis.
The input of signal processing and modeling is going to take an important position, in connection with “big data” approaches.
Naturally, we wish to pursue the adventure and we are thinking about MiFoBio 2016 for which it is necessary to put down the CNRS proposal next spring. This new editions of MiFoBio will be very different. We have to think about the microscopy within the next 5 to 10 years. MiFoBio has to help to create synergy between the actors of these future imaging approaches. Inclusion of Electronic, Ionic and Atomic force microscopy expertise is already a reality. The input of signal processing and modeling is going to take an important position, in connection with “big data” approaches. Besides, new chemical and bio-sensors start to be available. Optogenetics will be one main driver items of the next MiFoBio. Another issue which is not a new issue is how to export the MiFoBio concept, in order to answer an anticipated international demand? We do not have clear answer on that, although European Infrastructure (ESFRI projects), recent programs at the EU (Infra-Dev-Sup in H2020) or through other international organization could certainly help.