About the Symposium

Join us for the 22nd Anniversary of the annual EMBL PhD Symposium. Since its conception in 1999, the EMBL PhD Symposium has evolved into a highly respected scientific meeting, connecting young researchers and high-profile scientists alike. This year, our Symposium centers on the theme “The Roaring 20s: A New Decade for Life Sciences”.

In the next ten years, vast progress will be achieved within the life sciences and new challenges are emerging. We are dedicated to bring together outstanding researchers from a broad range of disciplines that implement highly promising approaches to tackle the current scientific questions as well as the global problems we face as a scientific community and as humanity. We will address issues ranging from basic research questions in the life sciences to the most recent developments in synthetic biology, disease management and neuroscience. Furthermore, we will address the intricate relationship between living organisms and their environment - thus focusing on ecology and evolution – and on the discussion about how to communicate our science to the society we are part of.

Come and join us at the 22nd EMBL PhD Symposium, for three days of exciting and future-oriented science.

Covid-19 - Statement

We are aware that the current situation causes many insecurities concerning registration for and participation in our conference. Since the symposium takes place at the end of November, we will try our best to host the conference on site. However, taking everyone’s safety and security into account there will be the option to take it virtually (online participation, remote presentation) if the situation does not improve over the next few months. For more information please click here. This information is constantly updated.


Christa Schleper Christa Schleper Jean-Léon Maître Jean-Léon Maître Kelly Nguyen Kelly Nguyen Lisa Maier Lisa Maier Matteo Carandini Matteo Carandini Miguel Nicolelis Miguel Nicolelis Muzlifah Haniffa Muzlifah Haniffa Nadanai Laohakunakorn Nadanai Laohakunakorn
Photo of Christa Schleper

Prof. Dr. Christa Schleper

University of Vienna

Christa Schleper is professor at the University of Vienna, Austria, since 2007 and head of the Archaea Biology and Ecogenomics Unit. She studies the ecology, physiology, molecular biology and evolution of Archaea. Schleper has worked at the MPI Martinsried, at Caltech and Univ. of Sta Barbara, at the University of Darmstadt, and as full professor at the University of Bergen, before she moved to Vienna. She is an EMBO member and in the Austrian Academy of Sciences, received an ERC Advanced Grant in 2016, and was highly cited researcher in 2019. She is also a co-organizer of the new Climate Change and Climate Crisis lecture in Vienna.

Photo of Jean-Léon Maître

Dr. Jean-Léon Maître

Insitut Curie

Jean-Léon Maître is a group leader at the institut Cure in Paris, France studying mammalian pre-implantation development with a focus on cell mechanics and cell-cell interactions. Jean-Léon received a PhD in the laboratory of Carl-Philipp Heisenberg at the Max Planck Institute for Cell Biology and Genetics (Dresden, Germany) and the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (Klosterneuburg, Austria) for his work on cell cortex tension and cell adhesion during zebrafish gastrulation. During his postdoc at EMBL Heidelberg with Takashi Hiiragi, he worked on the mechanics of the pre-implantation embryo in the mouse supported by an EMBO long term fellowship and a Marie Curie IntraEuropean fellowship. Jean-Leon was awarded an ERC starting grant in 2017 and is an EMBO young investigator.

Photo of Kelly Nguyen

Dr. Kelly Nguyen

MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

Kelly Nguyen earned her PhB (Honours) degree in chemistry from the Australian National University, followed by a PhD in structural biology from the MRC-LMB (Cambridge, UK) with Dr Kiyoshi Nagai. She was awarded a Miller Research Fellowship in 2016 to work on human telomerase in the laboratories of Profs. Eva Nogales and Kathleen Collins at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2019, she established her own group at the MRC-LMB. Kelly Nguyen’s group studies telomerase regulation and other processes involved in telomere maintenance beyond telomerase. She employs an integrated structural biology approach with a focus on biochemistry, cryo-electron microscopy and in vivo studies.

Photo of Lisa Maier

Dr. Lisa Maier

University of Tübingen

Dr. Lisa Maier did her PhD in the lab of Prof. Dr. W.-D. Hardt at ETH Zürich, Switzerland, where she studied the role of the microbiota during Salmonella Typhimurium induced colitis. "The influence of non-digestible carbohydrates on the intestinal colonization with enteropathogens" was the topic of research during her first post-doc in the same lab in 2014. From 2015 to 2018 Dr. Lisa Maier studied "drug-microbe interactions in the human gut microbiome" in the lab of Dr. A. Typas and Dr. K. Patil at EMBL Heidelberg. In her first-author publication in Nature in 2018, the potential risk of non-antibiotics promoting antibiotic resistance has been shown. Currently, starting from 2019, Dr. Lisa Maier is independent junior research group leader at University of Tübingen.

Photo of Matteo Carandini

Prof. Matteo Carandini

University College London

Matteo Carandini is the GlaxoSmithKline / Fight for Sight Professor of Visual Neuroscience at University College London (UCL), where he co-directs a laboratory together with Kenneth Harris. His research focuses on the computations performed by large populations of neurons in the mouse brain. Carandini holds a Laurea summa cum laude in Mathematics from the University of Rome and a PhD in Neural Science from New York University. Before joining UCL in 2007, he ran laboratories in Zurich and San Francisco. He is a leader of the Neuropixels consortium and a founding member of the International Brain Laboratory.

Photo of Miguel Nicolelis

Prof. Dr. Miguel Nicolelis

Duke University

Miguel Nicolelis, M.D., Ph.D., is the Duke School of Medicine Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience at Duke University, Professor of Neurobiology, Biomedical Engineering, Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychology and Neuroscience, and founder of Duke's Center for Neuroengineering. He is Founder and Scientific Director of the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute for Neuroscience of Natal. Dr. Nicolelis is also founder of the Walk Again Project, an international consortium of scientists and engineers, dedicated to the development of an exoskeleton device to assist severely paralyzed patients in regaining full body mobility. Dr. Nicolelis has dedicated his career to investigating how the brains of freely behaving animals encode sensory and motor information. As a result of his studies, Dr. Nicolelis was first to propose and demonstrate that animals and human subjects can utilize their electrical brain activity to directly control neuroprosthetic devices via brain-machine interfaces (BMI).Dr. Nicolelis is a member of the French and Brazilian Academies of Science and has authored over 200 manuscripts, edited numerous books and special journal publications, and holds three US patents.

Photo of Muzlifah Haniffa

Prof. Dr. Muzlifah Haniffa

Newcastle University

Muzlifah Haniffa is a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, Lister Institute Research Fellow and Consultant Dermatologist based in Newcastle University. She graduated from medical school in Cardiff and trained as a junior doctor in Cambridge. She received her dermatology specialist training in Newcastle. She was awarded an Action Medical Research Training Fellowship and a Wellcome Trust Clinical Intermediate Fellowship. Muzz was the recipient of the Academy of Medical Sciences Foulkes Foundation Medal (2019) and the European Federation of Immunological Societies ACTERIA Prize in Immunology and Allergology (2018). Muzz is a leading member of the Human Cell Atlas initiative and pioneered the application of single cell genomics to decode the developing human immune system, and the human skin in health and disease. She is passionate about mentoring and diversity in science.

Photo of Nadanai Laohakunakorn

Dr. Nadanai Laohakunakorn

The University of Edinburgh

Dr. Nadanai Laohakunakorn, originally from Bangkok, obtained his BA/MSci in Natural Sciences (Physics) from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2010. He remained in Cambridge to carry out his PhD under the supervision of Prof Ulrich Keyser, where he studied nanopores and single-molecule biophysics. In particular, his work focused on electrically-driven fluid flows generated within the confined geometries of nanopores, and he developed techniques to measure and characterise these effects using optical tweezers. After defending his thesis in 2015, he moved to Lausanne where he worked with Prof Sebastian Maerkl at EPFL, on the new and growing field of cell-free synthetic biology. His work there focused on combining microfluidic devices with cell-free gene expression systems for high-throughput and rapid prototyping of genetic parts and circuits. In 2019 he received a Chancellor's Fellowship in Biotechnology at the University of Edinburgh, where he has established a lab for quantitative and automated engineering of cell-free systems.


Day 1, Thursday, November 26th

This is our preliminary programme, it is still subject to changes!

08:00 - 09:00 Registration
09:00 - 09:30 Symposium Opening & Welcome

Session 1 - Cell Biology

9:30 - 12:30 Details to be announced
12:30 - 13:30 Lunch + Meet the Speakers

Social Game - BiOlympics

13:30 - 14:30 Details to be announced

Session 2 - Synthetic Biology

14:00 - 17:00 Details to be announced
17:00 - 18:00 Workshops - Details to be announced
18:00 - 19:00 Dinner
20:00 - 22:00 Evening Programme: Tour of Heidelberg and Pub Visit

Day 2, Friday, November 27th

This is our preliminary programme, it is still subject to changes!

Session 3 - Evolution

09:00 - 12:00 Details to be announced
12:00 - 13:00 Ecology & Environment Talk / Panel Discussion
13:00 - 14:00 Lunch + Meet the Speakers

Session 4 - Neuroscience

14:00 - 17:00 Details to be announced
17:00 - 17:15 Flash Talks
17:15 - 19:00 Poster Session
19:00 - 20:00 Dinner
20:00 - 22:00 Evening Programme

Day 3, Saturday, November 28th

This is our preliminary programme, it is still subject to changes!

Session 5 - Society and Philosophy

10:00 - 12:45 Details to be announced
12:45 - 13:00 Flash Talks
13:00 - 14:00 Lunch + Meet the Speakers
14:00 - 15:00 Poster Session

Added Dimension Speaker

15:00 - 16:00 Details to be announced

Session 6 - Medicine/Diseases

16:00 - 19:45 Details to be announced
19:45 - 20:00 Awards and Thank You's
20:00 - 21:00 Dinner
21:00 - 01:00 Symposium Party

Travel and Accommodation

How to get to Heidelberg

Heidelberg is easily reached by train, car or plane from any country in the world. The EMBL campus is located in the neighbourhood area of Boxberg which is approximately 10 minutes by car from Heidelberg's city centre.

Reaching us by train, plane, or car.

Travel Documents and Visas

Prior to travelling to Germany, some applicants from certain countries may have to acquire special travel documents, such as a visa. Applicants are strongly encouraged to check with the local German Authorities (Embassies or Consulates) about the need for special travelling documents. Since the process may be time consuming, applicants are advised to make such arrangements as soon as possible. Failure to obtain a visa after the deadline for participation in the conference will not result in a refund. Applicants are responsible for providing the right documentation needed for their entry into Germany. However, upon request, the Organising Committee can issue a formal letter of acceptance to the symposium for the purposes of obtaining a visa. Please be aware that no visa letters will be issued before payment of the registration fee. The organising committee can not be held responsible in the case of a refusal by German authorities to enter German territory.


The registration fee does not include accommodation, which has to be personally arranged. Buses to EMBL from Heidelberg downtown will be provided during the symposium.

Financial Support

There are a number of options for obtaining a travel grant:

  1. EMBL provides a number of travel grants for participants of the Symposium. If you would like to apply for one of these grants, please register for the Symposium. After successful registration you will be provided with a link to submit your abstract and apply for an EMBL travel grant. To apply, you will need to submit an abstract and provide details on your motivation for applying for financial assistance. You must submit your abstract and motivation if you wish to be eligible for an EMBL travel grant. The deadline for travel grant application is the same as the abstract submission deadline, 3 September 2020. We will inform you by the end of September if your application has been successful.
  2. There are a number of external grants available. You can find a list of these below:
    • The Royal Society of Biology have several travel grants for various biological fields such as genetics, biochemistry, and biology. Be sure to check the respective websites for application deadlines.
    • The Company of Biologists: This grant is aimed at early-career scientists wanting to attend scientific meetings, conferences, workshops and courses relating to the areas of research covered by the journal. Deadline is 21 August, 2020 (for travel after 5 October, 2020).
    • Axol Bioscience: You must be a PhD student or postdoctoral-level researcher working in academia or industry performing life science research in the fields of neuroscience or cardiovascular research.
    • The Biochemical Society offers students bursaries to help their Undergraduate and Postgraduate members attend a range of Biochemical Society events or online courses. Please note that bursaries are given on a first come, first served basis. Please apply early to avoid disappointment.
    • Fritz Thyssen Stiftung offer travel subsidies for projects that have a clear connection to the German research system. This connection can be established either at a personal level through German scientists working on the project, at an institutional level through non-German scientists being affiliated to German research institutes or through studies on topics related thematically to German research interests.
    • Each quarter, Antibodies.com offers travel grants up to $500 to help cover the cost of attending conferences. These travel grants are open to PhD candidates, lab managers, and post-docs from academic research institutions across the US. The grant is intended to help cover the costs of registration, accommodation, and travel to conferences of choice. For a chance to win, simply complete the online application form; including a summary of your research or abstract for the conference.” Details of the Travel Grants Program can be found on this webpage.
    • Contact personal university / institution for conference travel grants

Please note that you need to apply independently to these grants.
If you require any assistance please do not hesitate to contact the Symposium Organisers.


Abstract submission / Financial Support application:   September 03rd
Short talk and Fellowship selection: September 24th
Registration: October 15th

Note: Abstracts for Posters can be submitted until the registration deadline.

  Fee Registration
Bachelor's / Master's students 130€ Register
Academia (PhD students, etc.) 180€ Register
Day Tickets 80€ Register
Industry 230€ Register
Press   Register
EMBL Staff (including new EMBL PhD Students)   Register

Follow us on our social media accounts to stay tuned!


Sponsorship Information

The EMBL PhD symposium will provide an invaluable networking environment for your company to enhance the profile amongst the molecular biosciences research community, especially towards the young generation. The symposium will offer prime opportunities for your company to promote your new products, latest technology, and services. If you are interested in sponsoring our symposium and would like to have more information, direct your enquires to us.

Sponsors of the symposium


Also kindly supported by:

EMBL CPP founder partners

Leica Microsystems Olympus

EMBL CPP corporate partners

10x Genomics BD Bio-Rad Boehringer Ingelheim Eppendorf Glaxo Smith Kline MACS-Miltenyi Biotec Stilla Technologies ThermoFisher Scientific

EMBL CPP associate partners

Merck New England Biolabs Nikon Promega Roche Sanofi Sartorius


Have a question? Please feel free to contact the PhD Symposium 2020 Organising Committee:

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