The Young DPI meeting, held on the first day of the three-day event, was attended by as many as 45 researchers of ten different nationalities from all parts of the world, all of whom had started working on a project in the past academic year. Besides sharing some practical information with them, DPI offered the participants a music-based interactive training session called "Rhythm & Connection", led by the Dutch group More Balls Than Most. The idea was to give the young researchers an opportunity to get to know one another in a "fun and learning" setting, with music forming the common mode of communication transcending their diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
The Young DPI members thoroughly enjoyed this event, although initially some of these "scientifically minded" participants felt ill at ease in the somewhat airy-fairy atmosphere involving music, yoga and suchlike. Laurens Polgar, a PhD student from the University of Groningen who won the first prize in the Poster Award, acknowledges that the approach was indeed effective. Laurens: "At the start of the session, we were somewhat reserved and cautious, and people of the same nationality huddled together. But as the afternoon progressed we loosened up and began to mix. The session helped us to discover how we could build mutual trust, find a common mode of communication and work together. It reinforced my own experience of working in an international team in Groningen."
Hao Liu, a researcher from China who is working on his PhD at the Eindhoven University of Technology on a project for DPI: "The game-based training session helped people like me who are from a different culture to open up to other people - which is essential when you work in international teams. It also enabled me to start building a network: the connections that I make here, with researchers from both China and elsewhere, will be useful to me in my work now as well as in the future when I go back to China."
According to Nadia Vleugels, a PhD researcher at the University of Twente, Dutch people - especially Dutch scientists - are less receptive to woolly stuff, but this session was led in a professional yet "fun" way. Nadia: "The music-based game taught us that there are processes where you need to cooperate, where you have to depend on another person, even if that person has a different cultural or linguistic background. In the game we played, music took the place of language and helped us to communicate with others. It was great to see that this worked. In my group at the university, for example, I am the only Dutch PhD; the other PhDs are all from different countries. So I know how important it is to be able to work in a diverse team. As scientists working in an increasingly globalising world, we need to develop skills for international teamwork. It's a good thing that DPI paid attention to this aspect of our work."