Back “I wanted to explain research in a way that was understandable for all and to do so in a language in which I am not totally proficient, Catalan”
“I wanted to explain research in a way that was understandable for all and to do so in a language in which I am not totally proficient, Catalan”
We are talking to Ivan Milenkovic, the winner of the seventh edition of the RIN4’ competition, in which doctoral students have to explain their research in four minutes in front of a lay audience.
Ivan Milenkovic was born in Serbia and began his doctoral degree in Biomedicine in 2018 at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), a centre attached to UPF located at the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB). In 24 May he won first prize in the Rin4’ (Research in 4 minutes) competition with his presentation titled “The dynamic life of ribosomes”.
How do you feel about winning this edition of Rin4’?
Very happy, really proud! It was a challenge both as regards the science and the language. I wanted to explain research in a way that was understandable for all and to do so in a language in which I am not totally proficient, Catalan. In fact, at one moment I thought about doing it in English, as I speak it pretty well, and I might be more at ease, but I wanted to take this step to prove that I was capable of giving a presentation of such importance in Catalan.
What made you end up deciding to do it in Catalan?
When I came to Barcelona in 2018 I remember that I had no interest in understanding or learning Catalan and I studied Spanish through the courses on offer at the centre. But, in the summer of 2019 I tried some courses in Catalan at the Consorci per a la Normalització Lingüística (Consortium for Language Normalization) and I really enjoyed them. I still didn’t have a good command of the language; however, I took it as a challenge; I tried to understand the texts written on signs in the street, dialogue in films, bits of songs or even conversations I overheard in the corridors of the CRG. And, slowly, and with the help of colleagues at the lab, I learned Catalan. When I saw the announcement for Rin4’ I took it as a huge challenge to explain my research and to do so in a language I didn’t know four years ago.
When I saw the announcement for Rin4’ I took it as a huge challenge to explain my research and to do so in a language I didn’t know four years ago.
Was it the challenge of the language that encouraged you to go in for the Rin4’?
Yes! But, I also remember that a colleague at the lab participated at an outreach activity at a high school on the occasion of International Day of Women and Girls in Science. I found it very interesting and she explained that she had rather enjoyed it; the students were a bit shy, but at the same time they were very interested in the subject. When I found out about the format of the Rin4’ I saw that it was exactly what I was looking for.
How did you prepare for the presentation?
First I saw how they had done it in other years. Then I wrote a text that I learned by heart and, finally, I presented it to the Catalans in my group. I wanted them to help me with the grammar and some expressions I wasn’t sure about. Anna and Rebeca, two lab colleagues, also helped me with both the Catalan and the presentation.
What does your research consist of?
My research aims to better understand ribosomes. Ribosomes are like small machines that produce the proteins in our cells. For a long time these organelles were believed to be static and uniform in the human body, but a few years ago it was discovered that this is not the case. Ribosomes are very different throughout the human body and actively participate in the dynamic regulation of cells, which is what makes cells so diverse. My research focuses on this; understanding why ribosomes act in this way in different tissues, organs, and systems.
What is the most difficult thing to explain to the general public about this research?
It can’t be too complex or too banal. If I went into the most specialized details, the public wouldn’t understand anything. But, if I oversimplified, I would compromise the correctness of the information. This led me to change my presentation five or six times before the final result. Even so, I think I found a halfway house that allowed me to fully and understandably explain my research to a general audience.
How do you plan to approach the Catalan finals?
I think I’ll take advantage of 90% of the text I wrote for UPF. I’ve made some changes to improve the presentation, but little else. The problem is that this time it’s harder. At the UPF finals I used five or six animations, but now I can only use two static slides. I’ve tried to include everything I wanted, but without overdoing it, so that everyone understands.
I think I found a halfway house that allowed me to fully and understandably explain my research to a general audience.
Was the Rin4’ your first outreach experience?
In Catalonia, it was. But, in Serbia, I have had a couple. There we have the “European Researchers’ Night”, a few days dedicated to scientific dissemination in which I participated. Later, I also worked at a science centre where we taught high school students basic scientific concepts.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m not sure yet, but I know I’d like to pursue my academic career and do a postdoctoral degree. The centre recommends we should go to another city and find other research centres, especially if we ever wish to set up our own laboratory. So, I will doubtless end up going somewhere in Europe to continue my career.