The EAS “Adopt a Student” Mentorship program started in early 2018, arising from the 2017 EAS Strategy and with the objective to connect our ‘senior’ members with students at the beginning of their career in the aquaculture sector. The concept was to find a more informal way to enable a two-way exchange of mentorship, sharing knowledge and experience from ‘older’ to younger’ and exploring together new ideas and newer ways of doing things from ‘younger’ to ‘older’.
Since we started, a few students (with the help of their mentors) participated in internships, and one student, with the help of a mentor, got a job. This article is a collection of testimonials sharing experiences and thoughts of students that are actively working with their mentors. Some for a few months, and others but for a longer period.
Christos Siapazis and Constantinos Mylonas (Research Director, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Greece)
|Picture.1 Christos Siapazis and Dr. Constantinos Mylonas in HCMR facilities|
My name is Christos Siapazis and I am 20 years old. Since a young age, I was passionate about the marine environment. Two years ago, I had the chance to start my studies in this field. Currently, I’m working on my bachelor's degree in ichthyology, at the University of Thessaly, Greece. My degree offers me a great variety of subjects including fisheries, aquaculture, aquatic food production, aquatic plant production, etc. Since I started my studies, I realized that aquaculture attracted my interest for multiple reasons. In 2018 I had the chance to study abroad with the Erasmus program for studies. I took the chance and I completed a semester at the University of Bergen in Norway.
Since the completion of my Erasmus mobility, I became even more interested in fish physiology in relation to aquaculture, especially the field of reproductive physiology. My target is to broaden my horizons in this subject area. This target lead me to join the European Aquaculture Society’s Student Group in February 2019, where I learned about the “Adopt a student” program.
The idea of having a mentor in the area of my interests intrigued me, resulting in applying. My motives to participate in the program are to gain knowledge and experience in a specific area of expertise. In addition, making connections with professionals and people related to my studies around the world could improve my communicational skills connected to aquaculture topics, as well as provide counselling for my future study and career plans.
In April last year, I had the first communication with my mentor, Dr. Constantinos Mylonas, who is an EAS Board Member for the period of 2018 - 2020. On our first call, we discussed my current level of studies, my interests as well as my future plans, my targets, and my wishes related to my studies. Following the “Adopt a student-guidelines” we talked about our motivation linked to this program and we tried to plan a way of cooperation that would be more convenient for both, giving the best result.
The period I choose to become part of the “Adopt a Student” program was suitable for my studies as well. As a part of my curriculum, I had to complete an internship in a public sector facility related to my studies. After conversing with Dr. Mylonas we agreed that this would be the ideal occasion for cooperation and for moving the mentorship program one step ahead. Therefore, between June and August I carried out an internship in the Hellenic Center for Marine Research (HCMR), were Dr. Mylonas is a Researcher Director.
During this internship, I had the chance to learn more about broodstock management and fish reproduction, which is one of my scientific interests. In addition, I had the opportunity to work with my mentor and his team of technicians and graduate students, which provided me with extra knowledge on lab and teamwork, solving questions, and teaching me new techniques.
As a mentee, I expect to get the maximum benefit from this program not only academically but also professionally. For me, this program is an open door for networking with people related to my interests and for exchanging ideas. Moreover, it is the greatest opportunity to have someone for guidance on my academic work.
After my internship at HCMR, I stayed in contact with my mentor. Our physical meeting was at the Aquaculture Europe 2019, in Berlin, and hopefully in Cork, Ireland in 2021.
Julia Clols Fuentes and Jorge Galindo-Villegas (Senior Researcher, Nord University, Norway)
|Picture 2. Júlia Clols Fuentes|
My name is Júlia Clols Fuentes and I am 25 years old. During my bachelor studies, I learned about the concepts and processes involved in the interaction between organisms and their biological and physical surrounding environment. Towards the end of the studies, I went abroad to France and Germany with the aim of gaining more experience and new skills related to marine biology. Followed by my curiosity, I joined a master's program in aquaculture at the University of Barcelona (UB). Afterward, I wanted to carry on my professional career as a researcher in projects that contribute to investigation and development in aquaculture. I feel particularly interested in the water microorganisms which interact with the fish's physiological system and are potential pathogens for them. I believe that understanding the cause of fish diseases is as important as finding new ways to manage and predict disease outbreaks in different water systems so as to help fish farmers.
At the last EAS Conference 2019 held in Berlin, I had the chance to participate as a student volunteer. I got to know the currently ongoing research and development related to Aquaculture and met lots of interesting people and motivated young students. Therefore, I realized that becoming a member of EAS would facilitate to further develop my professional career while creating new connections with other people enrolled into this science. During the conference, I shared my working tasks with a charming student that explained to me his personal experience as a participant in the mentorship program. So after all, I instantly felt excited about the idea of having a Mentor and getting a bit more involved into the European Aquaculture Society.
Since I started my current research I had one clear idea in mind; I wanted to get the most out of this opportunity. That means I expect to exchange knowledge and personal experiences with other people enrolled into this field, to expand my written and communicative skills, and to face new challenges. In this context, a mentor is a key person who could advise and guide me thorough these initial years of working on research.
My first contact with Jorge Galindo-Villegas happened at the beginning of July. In a Skype call, we talked about our professional background in detail and little about our personal situation. Jorge explained he has been a mentor for a few more students in the past and still maintains contact with them. So his commitment as a mentor is an outstanding quality I positively valued. Taking advantage of Jorge's wide experience based on the host-microbe interactions at the immune interphase of cultured teleost fish was a fundamental and solid attraction for establishing this mentor-mentee relationship. Therefore, we decided to start our mentorship by discussing some issues such as future goals and objectives related to our working field. We could express ourselves freely and clearly since we both speak the same native language.
As a mentee, I expect to consult with Jorge as many topics as possible, find answers to several academic and personal questions, get general help based on trust, confidentiality, and mutual respect. Also, the next steps in my career require particular attention and a high-degree of advice. Last but not least, we already discussed the possibility of writing something together that would be the starting point of this new exciting chance kindly granted by the EAS.
All in all, I am very pleased to be part of this experience and motivated to learn more from him. Although we plan to call each other regularly, we would like to meet physically before the end of this year. However, if it is not possible, we will hopefully see each other at the next EAS conference in Cork!
Marina Rubio and John Bostock (University of Stirling, Scotland)
|Picture 3. Marina Rubio|
My name is Marina Rubio and I am from Madrid, Spain. I am a second-year Ph.D. student at the University of Idaho (USA), specializing in fish nutrition and physiology. I am passionate about aquaculture, however, my interest in the industry or even marine or aquatic biology hadn’t always been there.
I studied biotechnology in Madrid for my bachelor’s degree, and after an internship, I continued with my studies and started my Master in Aquaculture and Marine Resource Management at Wageningen University and Research in The Netherlands. At this stage, despite the big contrast with my previous background, one thing was clear: I wanted to become engaged in the aquaculture industry and contribute to sustainably produce protein for a growing population.
My interest in working with people from different cultural backgrounds brought me to Port Stephens Fisheries Institute in New South Wales, Australia, for my internship which I did in yellowtail kingfish and studied the influence of abiotic parameters on fish performance.
Back in Spain, I took part of a project-oriented to improve aquaculture practices, with a big focus on policy and sustainability. Despite this was a valuable experience for me, by this time I was reassured I wanted to become a fish nutrition expert, so following my instincts to travel the world, I started my PhD program in Idaho, USA.
Many reasons made me get involved in the “Adopt a student” program, but the main reason is that it is a great way to gain a unique perspective outside of academia and staying connected with the industry in Europe as well as being challenged to pursue unique opportunities to improve my management and communication skills. John Bostock is helping me get a clear picture of different career possibilities and how to work towards them.
On the other hand, I like having the opportunity to share what I am learning in America, as well as my project’s progress with a person outside university. Keeping contact with John, who is actively involved in the European aquaculture industry and has broad experience with students is an excellent way for me to have an outside opinion and keep the focus of where I am headed to after I finish the program.
To date, we have had two meetings via Zoom, and we agreed to continue to meet once a month by the same means. I am in charge of planning an agenda and sharing my progress. During our first meeting, John shared a lot of his experience and his involvement in several projects, and even though his main area of expertise is not nutrition, that works great for me so I can think from different points of view and be more creative in my career.
It is in my plans for 2021 to attend one of the two Aquaculture Europe conferences, and this would make for a wonderful opportunity to meet John in person and expand networks.
Paul Mosnier and Ana Couto (Auxiliary researcher, University of Porto/CIIMAR, Portugal)
|Picture 4. Dr. Ana Couto and Paul Mosnier, Skype|
My name is Paul Mosnier and I am in the last semester of my master’s degree in Sustainable Aquaculture Systems at the University of Plymouth, UK. With extra time on my hands during the lockdown, I was spending a lot of time researching the industry and looking for career opportunities. I came across the EAS Adopt A Student Programme on LinkedIn and after reading about the experiences of previous mentees, I decided to apply. I hoped it would allow me to get a deeper insight into the industry and I was also looking for further help with my master’s dissertation. I was delighted to hear in April that Dr. Ana Couto had agreed to be my mentor. Ana is an auxiliary researcher at CIIMAR (Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research of the University of Porto) where she is a specialist in fish nutrition and immunobiology. We had our first meeting through Skype shortly after that and have continued with bi-weekly meetings.
I have really enjoyed the program so far and it has been great to build a relationship with someone of Ana’s expertise. We have discussed a variety of topics related to the aquaculture industry and it has been fascinating to learn about Ana and her team’s research at CIIMAR. Ana’s expertise in fish nutrition has been particularly helpful for my own dissertation which is looking at the effect of a feed additive on the early life stages of tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). I have been learning a number of new concepts and analytical techniques and having the input of someone with such experience in this area has been invaluable. With her enthusiasm and ability to impart her knowledge, I was not surprised to learn that Ana is also Invited Auxiliary Professor at the University of Porto.
Since there are no strict rules for the program and participants can schedule to meet as often as they like. With no formal layout to the meetings, the program offers participants the chance to have informal conversations and share ideas in a relaxed atmosphere. Participation in the program also comes with the benefit of a membership subscription to the EAS for both mentor and mentee which gives participants access to more great resources. The EAStalk Webinars have been particularly interesting and the broad range of topics are a testament to the huge potential of aquaculture.
I would highly recommend to other students to apply to the program and get involved with the great network that is the EAS. The input of experts like Ana is absolutely invaluable and the EAS is a great place to learn about the latest developments in the industry. For mentors, I think the program is a great opportunity to share research and network with young and prospective aquaculture professionals, and the informal approach means there is no pressure to spend time planning meetings. I am very thankful to Ana for sharing her knowledge with me and to the EAS for this great opportunity.
I am looking forward to continuing my mentorship with Ana long into the future!
Pedro Lindenberg and Shane A. Hunter (Technical Director, BioTech Malta)
|Picture 5. Pedro Lindenberg, BioTech Malta|
My name is Pedro Lindenberg, 23 years old, I am a student of Aquaculture Engineering at Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil. My passion for Aquaculture started early, I had the privilege of growing up working in this area with the family’s business. Upon entering college I started to realize the dimension and technical beauty behind the animal protein production that grows at the highest rates in the world. Inside it, a culture technology started to catch my attention, RAS (Recirculation Aquaculture Systems).
The rise of this technology and its use in the aquaculture industry is due to several factors, among them the need to create the farming environment itself, not to be at the mercy of natural issues over which we have no control, such as, the warming of the oceans, pollution or water scarcity, and temperature. As the water is continually reused, we achieve water efficiency far superior to conventional systems, increasing productivity, biosafety, and control throughout the production stage.
However, in Brazil, there are still no commercial-scale farms or well-structured projects that use technology in production. I decided that I was willing to search for something outside, that was when I found the Adopt a student program. I got in touch looking for a mentor for an internship. After a few months, I received the great news that Shane A. Hunter, a Technical Director of the AquaBioTech Group had accepted to be my mentor. Based in Malta, the company has years of experience operating and scaling projects that use RAS technology around the world.
During my internship in Malta, I had the opportunity to collaborate with a complete team of professionals from different areas. At the start of my time here, I worked with the installation team, whose focus was to upgrade the RAS used for Research and Development. After that, I worked with the technicians who operate and maintain all systems. The company has 30 individual RAS Bays for various trials (equipment development, nutritional, vaccines, etc) for both freshwater and seawater. In parallel, I dedicated myself to scaling equipment and hydraulic calculations, themes that fascinate me. For this, I had the support of the engineering and design team.
|Picture 6. Pedro Lindenberg with his colleagues in BioTech Malta|
In my view, RAS technology is a large topic with much to learn about its components and applications, such as the impact on yield, all the pollution generated, how to treat this effluent, and how to promote the best welfare of the fish. If this is not done well, the quality levels required for your animals to grow well and healthy will not be reached. It is a real puzzle. But when you start to the figure out engineering behind it, it’s amazing.
There are still several challenges ahead. As it is a recent technology, the advances do not stop. My mentoring was especially important to better understand all the issues surrounding the topic. In addition to great professional growth, having the opportunity to experience the culture of another country, and being able to work with people from all over the world was incredible. I am grateful for the patience and willingness of everyone, who answered my unceasing questions.
I advise students to try to seek new experiences, look for internships and mentors, see with your own eyes the problems of the field. The EAS and their Student Group was the key to this connection.
At the moment, EAS have 11 pairs that are actively working together, sharing their ideas and knowledge. But we are always looking for new students and mentors that would like to become a part of this program. We hope very much that this article will encourage mentors and mentees to sign up and EAS will reward both with the free membership during the duration of the mentoring.
We are looking forward to have you with us! If you would like to participate in our Adopt a Student program as a mentor or mentee please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org