Transforming an Idea into Reality

The first Helmholtz Pioneer Campus recruiting symposium delivers outstanding science and shapes the underlining Pioneer Campus concept.

December 4th 2017 marked the Pioneer Campus’ first important scientific event at the Helmholtz Zentrum München. Following a tremendously successful global call for Pioneer Campus team leader positions, 13 promising scientists had been invited to present their past (visibly published) achievements, and to stand at the same time for their visionary future research proposals.

Arriving from globally recognized research institutions, such as Caltech, Harvard, EPFL, Cancer Research UK, CNRS Montpellier or the Helmholtz Zentrum München, these 13 scientists (11 nationalities, 4 female, 7 male) presented a broad spectrum of cutting-edge life-science research. Their inspiring presentations covered fundamental problems, such as 3D-genome architecture, neuronal wiring integrated with behavioral traits as revealed by deep-brain imaging or the basics of stem cell metabolism.

Various speakers are spearheading single cell technologies and high-power computation to systematically address questions like molecular ageing or to deep-phenotype cellular and tissue heterogeneity or non-antibiotic drug effects on the human gut microbiome. In the true spirit of the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus, bioengineering-, -imaging, chemical- and synthetic-biology challenges were featured in many of the talks that were followed by thorough discussions with an interested audience of Helmholtz scientists from all career stages. The very friendly and constructive atmosphere, wonderfully governed by the session chairs Matthias Tschöp and Vasilis Ntziachristos, transformed a ‘recruiting symposium’ into a stimulating and mutually beneficial scientific workshop.

The outstanding group of promising junior scientists used the truly unique opportunity to also network with junior group leaders of the Helmholtz Zentrum during lunch and mingle with some of the Zentrum’s senior faculty and administrative representatives during breaks and a concluding networking dinner.

‘Progress in science depends on new techniques, new discoveries and new ideas, probably in that order.’ (Sydney Brenner, Nobel laureate 2002)

The Pioneer Campus’ mission is to blend advanced (bio-)engineering with cutting-edge biomedical research in a most collaborative environment and strict interdisciplinary fashion. Miniaturization, automation, robotics and (bio-)computation featured dominantly throughout the symposium, sparking curiosity-driven questions and constructive comments: the overarching realization was that today’s technical opportunities and the level of biological complexity can only be conceptualized collectively to transform future health sciences.

“A super interesting day, with pioneering ideas and technologies much needed to advance the Pioneer Campus vision”, says Prof. Dr. Vasilis Ntziachristos, Director of Bioengineering at HPC. Thus, the Director of Biomedicine Prof. Dr. Matthias Tschöp adds: „I haven’t chaired a session as broad and interesting like this in a long time.”

Next steps

Of course, also individual interviews were conducted and the candidates were given a chance to meet with scientists of their choice from the Helmholtz Zentrum München during their stay. As next steps, the interviewer and steering committee members will make their recommendations and external references will be solicited before the Pioneer Campus Directors engage in further discussions with some of the truly impressive candidates.The scientific opportunities arising from the outstanding track-record and visionary proposals presented by our guests further stimulate the conceptual planning for the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus at the Helmholtz Zentrum München. 

"We are most grateful to all of your active or passive involvements and contributions”, acknowledges Dr. Thomas Schwarz-Romond, Director of Operations at Pioneer Campus. “Thanks for your interest and support, making this Symposium a stimulating success and enjoyable experience for the Helmholtz Zentrum München, the Pioneer Campus and our international guests. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with your comments, questions or suggestions!”