MNS portrait #5 - Myriam Fezai
MNS portrait #5 - Myriam Fezai

The Young Tunisian Researchers in Biology

An interview to Myriam Fezai (Eberhard-Karls-University of Tübingen), founder and spokesperson of the Young Tunisian researchers in Biology network.
What is the YTRB?
The Young Tunisian Researchers in Biology YTRB is a dream that became true. it’s the incredible story of young scientists who believe in their ability to create a change in the scientific research in their home country, Tunisia. They decided to launch a large network between researchers in biology inside Tunisia together with their peers all over the world. Thus, the idea of organizing an international symposium for young scientists came out.
All graduated from Tunisian Universities in different disciplines in Biological Sciences and pursued their Ph.D. or part of it, each, in a foreign country where they grow up as young researchers with the willing to bring a new wave of ideas and fresh network to their home country.
The Young Tunisian Researchers in Biology YTRB is a dream that became true. it’s the incredible story of young scientists who believe in their ability to create a change in the scientific research in their home country.
Our Motto?

Be Young, Be Brilliant, Be YTRB!
How and when it was created?
The idea came out in early 2015 with Chamseddine Kifegi, Mohamed Jemaà, Walid Elfalleh and Imen Chamkha, discussed with Myriam Fezai and Fakher Frikha. The 1st call was launched in April 2015, inviting all contacts in biology-related fields from all Tunisian Universities, and soon Ons Mamai, Chaker Slaymi, Radhouène Doggui, Nourhène Fendri and Abdelaziz Tlili joined as founding members.
The 1st skype meeting was held in early May 2015 and ended with fixing a target: “May 2016 will be the date of the 1st International Symposium of Young Researchers in Biology in Tunisia”. The enthusiasm, eagerness and hard work of all members made it successful.
What are the main ideas behind it?
Despite the huge potential, the scientific life of a biologist in Tunisia is more and more stagnant. The collaborations are still with the same old people (retired now) and dying institutes. The YTRB, are deeply affected by the gap they feel once they visit any scientific event in their home country, compared to leading countries in scientific research. No real technology exchange, no real collaborations.
The only alternative was to present a new event following the international norms and show the difference. A selection of Young and Brilliant PI and group leaders invited from all over the globe to expose the newest discoveries in applied biological science and technologies. As well, the YTRB organized series of Skype conferences in different institutes in Tunisia, with the same motto: Young and Brilliant PI open to collaboration.
What are the aims of this group of YTRB?
The major aim of YTRB is to create a new and young collaboration network and to help young Tunisian colleagues to connect to their peers all over the world, in order to provide knowledge, experience and technology exchange. May it be a way to contribute modestly to renew the scientific research in Tunisia.
We guarantee a nice and unique atmosphere for a serious networking and easy contact with our invited speakers who are simply looking forward to getting in touch with new collaborators.
What is/was the challenge?
The biggest challenge was and still how to organize such huge event and make it successful without any single resource or support. We had no fund, no sponsor, no partnership and no experience. But we could make it concrete and successful within months. We did everything like “big guys” from the very tiny detail to the end. And the 1st symposium can be compared “modestly” to an EMBO event.
The second challenge was how to convince the colleagues to participate. As soon as the invited speakers’ names were announced, participants did not hesitate. For instance, we had the youngest and 6th most cited scientist all over the world Dr. Lorenzo Galluzzi as a guest speaker, among others.
How to reach YTRB?
We have a website, a Facebook page and even a Youtube channel!
What are the achievements of YTRB?
The YTRB network at the very beginning was limited to only 11 persons, today it counts hundreds of scientists working if different Biology fields’ worldwide.
The 1st symposium held in May 2016, was a real success. Over 180 participants from different countries, namely: Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, France, Italy, Germany, UK, Sweden, Denmark, UAE, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore and the USA. Collaborations built have been fruitful and here is the real impact and aim of the YTRB network:
  • 4 scientific papers were published in internationally recognized scientific journals among them one publication in the prestigious Scientific Reports (Nature publishing group), the work is a collaboration between Germany, France, Sweden and Tunisia.
  • The 1st startup of Big DATA in Biology in Tunisia, Youbetrust, was created in the technopole El Ghazala, Ariana; Tunisia with the collaborators from Singapour, USA, France and Tunisia.
What are the future actions of YTRB?
Future, or rather… ongoing! The next symposium will take place in Hammamet, Tunisia, from the 10th to the 13th of May 2018. We are pleased to welcome brilliant young PI from Tunisia, France, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and Canada. Two pre-symposium workshop sessions have been organized in parallel on the 9th of May about “protein docking” and “how to plan and get a postdoc”.
Of course we continue our skype conferences series every 3 months in different institutions with the same criteria of young and brilliant PI.
Stay tuned for our next editions and support us!
Interview collected by Azza Sellami, MNS councillor.