Biosystematics, informatics and genomics of the big 4 insect groups: training tomorrow's researchers and entrepreneurs

When dreams come true

The New Year 2019 has just begun! In this year, BIG4’s training network will formally not exist anymore. The generous EU Horizon 2020 ITN grant, awarded to us in 2015, was completed on December 31st 2018. There are still some important reporting activities ahead and many project-bound students continue to work on the projects, but technically the grant is over.

As the BIG4 coordinator, I have to admit I am a bit sad about this. We had really fun years with 15 early stage researchers and several scientific advisors from universities, natural history museums and three international companies working together. It was an opportunity we are very thankful for, and glad to report about.


A few weeks ago, Si-Pei defended her PhD thesis on adaptations to various modes of flight in insects. Si-Pei, you are our first student with the PhD diploma already in your hands and we are very proud of you! Josh, Janina, Trevor and Viktor are also pretty much done with their theses and awaiting the PhD defense soon. Igor must hand in his thesis in one month. What a busy and responsible start of the year, for you, Igor! Adam, who joined the network for one year, soon landed a competitive position as a researcher and curator at the Canadian National Collection of Insects and Arthropods, and Ashish now works in India on data visualisations. Other students enrolled later or having longer PhD programs, still have months to work on their projects based on collateral agreements and co-funds from their universities. Following the progress of these lucky fellows with more time available, I am sure that Elsa, Hamid, Erik, Miroslav, Daniel, Emmanuel, Mathias and Anne-Sarah, you all will do fine, even though your projects are challenging.

As always in science and technology, there is some time lag before one can harvest results. Ideas that were brewed during BIG4 will continue to materialise as papers or applications for years after the network is finished. Still, I am proud to see a long list of peer review papers we already published – check out our ‘Publications’.

Miroslav produced not only papers during BIG4, but a baby as well. Well done, Miroslav, and enjoy your paternity leave, something nice to have as an EU program-bound student! I hope others will follow your work-life balance approach – entomologists must grow in numbers to keep up with the mega-diversity of insects that our network has as a target.

Speaking of the opportunities and benefits the network gave us, I must say that sometimes it was difficult to read EU grant rules and regulations, or deal with the Participant Portal. However, the University of Copenhagen coordinator’s support office always saved when we had doubts or (nearly) missed deadlines. Thanks to Sree, Karin and Fabienne it was seldom when Patricia E. Rischitor, our Brussels-bound project adviser, had to give us a notch. When you, Patricia, did so, we always smoothly moved forward.

And now, even though our network is formally completed, we still go together as a community. I am glad to see continuing interactions among students and PIs, and long lasting friendships. BIG4 made one of my dreams come true!

I wish all of you, BIG4-bound researchers, to dream big and move our science about insect mega-diversity forward in 2019 and onwards. Happy New Year!

Alexey Solodovnikov, BIG4 scientific coordinator

Print this article