Winter School in Szeged

 by Hana Krakovská

The EvoGamesPlus Winter School recently concluded its final edition, leaving a lasting impression on all of us. Held from 22 to 26 January in the Hungarian city of Szeged, the school was meticulously organized by the Bolyai Institute and Centre for Ecological Research. We extend our thanks to Gergely, Adam, Golsa, Nandakishor, and Abel for their work in creating such a seamless and inspirational experience for everyone involved.


Now, let us delve into our experiences in Hungary, featuring enriching talks – both scientific and informal over coffee – delicious Hungarian cuisine*, engaging mechanical puzzles, football matches,  and much more.


*The author is half Hungarian and would like to declare a (strong) conflict of interest in topics related to Hungarian cuisine…

View from the tower of Votive Church in Szeged

The week-long school had a strong start: the first day was dedicated to presenting our research progress within the EvogamesPlus network. We heard from all fifteen Early-Stage Researchers about our progress since the summer school in Torino, along with what we hoped to investigate next. After the talks, the day finished with an amazing Hungarian buffet dinner after which some of us went to the institute’s garden to look at the statue… of Albert Einstein riding a bike. As an enthusiastic biker, I approve. 

Statue of Albert Einstein by László Bánvölgyi [1]

For the next couple of days, we opened the winter school doors to outside participants as well and enjoyed numerous talks on a broad range of topics. From evolutionary biology and epidemiology to cancer research and bacteriophages, the talks provided us with valuable insights into the latest advancements in medicine and healthcare. We thank many inspirational speakers from the Centre for Ecological Research, Biological Research Centre, Centre for Energy, Uni Szeged, ELTE, Semmelweis University, HCEMM, and Óbuda University who shared their knowledge with us, as well as our two public speakers Prof. Joel Brown from the Moffit Cancer Center from Florida who spoke about the recent advancements in cancer treatment and Prof. Eörs Szathmáry for his talk on multilevel selection.


Our keen interest and enthusiasm are captured in a video (starting at 16:40) produced by Szeged TV. Although the report is in Hungarian, I am sure we can all agree that the passion for science shines through, transcending any language barriers. If you would like to learn more about the presented talks, please visit our Twitter (X), LinkedIn, or the school’s webpage

Gergely Röst (left) introducing the talk of Prof. Eörs Szathmáry (right)

Recognizing the importance of downtime, the organizers thoughtfully curated a diverse selection of recreational activities for us to enjoy. This meant that on the second day, we had an evening full of social activities. We explored one of the biggest collections of mechanical puzzles (in the world!) with our knowledgeable museum guide, a puzzle enthusiast and mathematician. Thanks to our guide, we learned the secret to creating the best puzzle: apparently, it should take around 5 hours to solve. If it is quicker, it is boring; if it is too difficult, it is annoying.

Puzzle museum

The next morning, our exploration of puzzles carried on. We engaged in a session with our supervisors, who gave us advice on how to navigate the academic labyrinth, explored various perspectives on dilemmas between industry/academia, while we shared our plans and questions. Following this talk, it was time to select the new ESR representatives. After a successful tenure with Christo and Gosia at the helm (a big thanks to you both!), Diogo and I were chosen as the next pair to take on the role.


In the evening, we turned to some physical activity in the form of sports. We were offered two options: table tennis or football. Opting for football myself, I can’t provide much insight into the table tennis activities, except for glimpsing an exhilarating video of our supervisors energetically darting around the table (if you search long enough you will find it on Twitter (X)).


With football, I anticipated a casual affair akin to my high school days, envisioning a group of individuals kicking a ball around in a somewhat haphazard manner. To put it shortly… I was wrong. Gergely Röst invited members of the institute to join us. We immediately noticed their professional footwear and so expected a high-level of play from them. This impression was confirmed as soon as we started playing. Alongside Gergely, they graciously danced along the field, showing us some nice footwork with the ball. Despite our status as the novice contingent, we all had an absolute blast, scored some goals, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.


After the sports, there was time for a quick break and then a taxi to the Gala dinner. We went to a fish restaurant, where we had the opportunity to savor halászlé, a traditional Hungarian soup and other delicious food. Fortunately, this also presented another opportunity to declare my love for Hungarian cuisine, to everyone’s delight **.


**By the end of the week, we suspected the whole city of Szeged knew… and now you know it too.

Gala dinner

The week wrapped up with a career day. We had the opportunity to hear from former PhDs who transitioned to the private sector, providing valuable insights into potential career paths. For those inclined towards academia, there was a grant proposal session to improve our skills in securing funding. The day culminated in an elevator pitch competition, challenging participants to present their research in just two minutes. The prize? More mechanical puzzles, of course. Congratulations to the winners—Golsa, Frederik, and Christo—for their well-deserved recognition. The week was concluded with a nice dinner and a visit to a water park to decompress.

Some of us were around for the group photo

The winter school offered more than academic knowledge – it also fostered camaraderie and personal development. At this stage of the EvoGamesPlus timeline, we’ve bonded, and it’s always uplifting to reunite and share not only our research progress but also personal. We look forward to crossing paths again at various conferences this summer and beyond.

Photo credit

[1] Photo of the statue of Albert Einstein:

Leave a comment