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Programme CEWIS 2013

Keynote Speakers

Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tübingen, Germany

Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard studied biology and biochemistry at the universities of Frankfurt and Tubingen, respectively, receiving her Diploma in Biochemistry.  She further worked on the analysis of transcriptional control mechanisms via the structure of the promotor region for her PhD thesis in Genetics at the University of Tübingen. Switching subjects and model organism she performed postdoctoral training at the Biozentrum in Basel working with fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) on maternal mutants and their influence on the larval cuticle. Continuing her studies on embryonal gradients and the segmental pattern of the Drosophila larva she joined the lab of Klaus Sander at the University of Freiburg. In 1978 she became group leader at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg and started to work with Eric Wischaus on a screen of embryonic mutants affecting the segmental pattern of the larva publishing their first results in Nature 1980. In 1981 she became group leader at the Friedrich-Miescher-Laboratory of the Max-Planck-Society in Tübingen pursuing her idea of a screen for maternal mutants on axis determination in the embryo. Since 1985 she is director of the Max-Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen.  

In 1986 Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard received the prestigious Leibniz Prize and in 1991 the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award. Finally, "for their discoveries concerning the genetic control of early embryonic development" she received together with Eric Wieschaus and Edward Lewis the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1995. From 2001-2006 she was a member of the National Ethics Council of Germany for ethical assessment of research in life sciences. In 2004 she founded the CNV Foundation aiming to support young female scientist with children. From 2004-2009 she was Secretary General of the EMBO and from 2005-2012 member of the Scientific Council of the ERC.  
Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard´s research interests concern the molecular and genetic analysis of development using the model organism the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and the zebra fish Danio rerio. She continues her research on molecular mechanisms involved in the establishment of cell polarity in the Drosophila embryo, and organ formation, growth and cell migration in the zebra fish as a new model organism for vertebrate development. 
The zebra fish is an ideal model organism to study aspects of vertebrate development. Zebra fish skin and its structures such as scales and fins and the striped pigmentation pattern are excellent adult structures that can be easily assessed in regard to their embryonal development and patterning. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard´s lab is investigating the genetic basis for the formation of these adult structures that arise during juvenile development with the aim to understand the genetic basis of morphological variation in evolution. In a mutagenesis experiment conducted on a large scale in her lab, she identified genes that specifically affect skull, scales, fins and the striped pigment pattern of adult fishes. These results showed that scales and fins arise during juvenile development from thickenings in the dermis that form bony plates or rays.
Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard lives in Tübingen, Germany. She wrote a cooking book, spends time in her garden and likes to do music (voice, flute).

Ulla Bonas, Institute of Biology, Department of Genetics, Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany

Ulla Bonas is a Professor of Genetics at the Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg since 1998. Main research topics are the characterization of bacterial type effector proteins from the pepper and tomato pathogen Xanthomonas and their biochemical function inside plant cells, functional studies of AvrBs3, a TAL effector from Xanthomonas and - more recently - the analysis of small non-coding RNAs from Xanthomonas.

Ulla was born and raised in Cologne where later she also studied Biological Sciences. She completed her PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, supervised by Prof. Saedler. As a Post-Doctoral fellow, Ulla moved to the University of California, Berkeley to first work with Prof. R. Sung (Genetics)  and then with Prof. B. Staskawicz (Plant Pathology). 
Returning to Germany, she became an independent research group leader at the institute for Genbiologische Forschung, Berlin GmbH and habilitated in Genetics at the Freie Universität Berlin in 1992. Further working on Xanthomonas she was a group leader at the CNRS Institut des Sciences Végétales; Gif-sur-Yvette, France before she became a professor in Halle-Wittenberg.

Ulla Bonas is an EMBO and Leopoldina member as well as the spokesperson of the SFB 648 on “Molecular mechanisms of information processing in plants” since 2005, the coeditor of "The Plant Cell" since 2006 and a referee for several national and international grant agencies and journals.

In 2011 Ulla Bonas was awarded the prestigious Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the DFG.

Confirmed Speakers

Rashika El Ridi, Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Cairo University, Egypt

Rashika El Ridi obtained her PhD in Immunobiology at the Molecular Genetics Institute of the Czech Academy of Science at Prague University in 1975. Thereafter, she started her career at the Zoology Department of the Faculty of Science at Cairo University and became a Professor in Immunology in 1986. She also worked as a visiting-scientist at the Hirosaki University in Japan and Harvard School for Public Health. From 1990 till 2000 she directed the Schistosomiasis research at the Biomedical Research Center from the Egyptian Organization for Sera and Vaccines. Professor El Ridi has received several awards for her work, the most recent in 2010 being the L’Oreal-Unesco Award for Women in Science for Africa and the Arab states. Professor El Ridi has devoted her research to the biology of schistosomiasis, which is caused by the trematode Schistosoma. This tropical disease, also known as bilharzias or snail fever, is a chronic parasitic disease which can not only lead to severe illness, especially in children, but also facilitate co-infection with other parasites. Professor El Ridi and her research group aim to develop a potent vaccine against schistosomiasis in the near future. Professor El Ridi raised one son who also became a successful scientist.

Maria von Korff Schmising, Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne, Germany

Maria von Korff Schmising completed her PhD at the Chair for Plant Breeding at the University of Bonn, where she performed Advanced Backcross QTL analyses in barley crosses involving exotic germplasm. She then moved to the Chair of Genetics at the University of Potsdam and looked into genome wide association mapping in Arabidopsis using tiling arrays and metabolite data. Subsequently, she worked as postdoctoral fellow at the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas, Syria. There she was primarily involved in QTL mapping for adaptation to Mediterranean environments in barley and the analysis of cis-acting variation in barley hybrids subjected to drought stress. Since April 2008 she has started her own research group at the MPIZ with a focus on mechanisms of drought adaptation and the regulation of flowering time in barley. Maria is married and has 2 children (5, 1 years old).

Maria Leptin , European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Germany

Maria Leptin studied B cell activation for her PhD thesis at the Basel Institute for Immunology in the lab of Fritz Melchers. Switching subjects and labs she started to study integrins in developmental aspects in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster in the lab of Michael Wilcox at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge, UK. During a research visit at the lab of Pat O’Farrell at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) she began to study gastrulation of the Drosophila embryo. From 1989 to 1994 she was a group leader at the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen further focussing on the gastrulation process of Drosophila.  In 1994, she became Professor at the Institute of Genetics, University of Cologne. In 2010 Maria Leptin became the Director of EMBO and established a research group in Heidelberg at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL).   

Maria Leptin´s research focuses on two different topics and model organism: the cell biology of morphogenesis and the innate immunity are studied in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and the zebra fish Danio rerio, respectively.  Morphogenesis is the shaping of structures in a developing organism. This aspect of differentiation can be nicely studied in the mesoderm of the Drosophila embryo during gastrulation and in the respiratory system of the Drosophila larva. Maria Leptin´s lab investigates how transcriptional cascades dictate cell shape changes during development and how this is affected by cell polarity and cell junctions. Further, the role of RNA localization in generating complex cell shapes. The innate immune system provides rapid defence against pathogens and also deals with non-?pathogenic stresses.  Important cells of the immune system respond to stimuli from damaged cells via extra-? and intracellular sensors. Maria Leptin´s lab aims to understand how such signals are recognised and how the appropriate subcellular and intercellular responses are triggered. They have discovered that one family of sensors, the cytoplasmic NOD-?like receptors (NLRs), are particularly abundant in fish. Maria Leptin lives in Cologne and has two children.

Susana Lopez Charreton, Developmental Genetics and Molecular Physiology, Department of the Institute of Biotechnology, National University of Mexico, Cuernavaca, Mexico

Susana Lopez Charreton obtained her PhD in 1986 from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and is now a professor in the Developmental Genetics and Molecular Physiology Department of the Institute of Biotechnology at UNAM. Among her achievements, Professor Lopez was honored with several awards including the UNESCO's Carlos J. Finlay Prize for Microbiology in 2001, and the TWAS prize in Biology in 2008 together with her husband, Carlos Arias Ortiz, as well as  the L'Oreal-UNESCO Award for Woman in Science for Latin America in 2012. Moreover, she was selected twice as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Research Scholar (2000-2005, 2005-2010). The main part of her research is dedicated to rotaviruses which cause severe diarrhea in young children worldwide. With her research group, she investigates several aspects in the host-pathogen interaction in order to understand how rotaviruses enter their host cell, and control the translation machinery of the host to establish a productive infection. Professor Lopez also collaborates on a number of projects regarding alphaviruses, flaviviruses as well as viral diagnostics of influenza. Professor Lopez is presently also very interested in promoting the nutrition of young children in Mexico. She has two grown-up children.

Naomi Ori, The Robert H. Smith Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Naomi Ori, an Associate Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is interested in compound leaf development. Her research group uses tomato as a model plant to study the roles of transcription factors and hormones in the maintenance of SAM activity and in the control of leaf maturation and leaflet development.
After completing her PhD at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, Naomi moved to California for her Post-doctoral studies at USDA/U.C. Berkeley Plant Gene expression Center. There she worked on the genetics of meristem function in Arabidopsis in the lab of Sarah Hake, supported by BARD and NIH fellowships. In 2001 she went back to Israel to start her own group at the Robert H. Smith Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shortly after, in 2002, she received the Ellis and Alma Birk award for outstanding scientists.
Naomi has two children, Omer (23) who lives in a commune with a group of 10 people her age and are involved in youth afterschool education, and Navot (21) who is currently in the army.

Marysia Placzek, Developmental and Biomedical Genetics, The University of Sheffield, United Kingdom

Marysia Placzek obtained a B.Sc. in Molecular Biology from Edinburgh University,UK, and then studied mammary tumour development during her PhD at Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London (CRUK). She performed postdoctoral training at Columbia University, New York, working on the differentiation and functional role of floor plate cells of the vertebrate spinal cord. In 1992, she set up her independent lab at the National Institute for Medical Research, London, and further studied floor plate and axial mesoderm development. Marysia moved to the department of Biomedical Science at the University of Sheffield in 1997, becoming Professor of Developmental Neurobiology. Since 2007 she is Deputy Director of the MRC Center for Developmental and Biomedical Genetics. A major focus of her research is to understand the development of the vertebrate hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that mediates body homeostasis. Understanding its development elucidates how the hypothalamus functions normally, and how dysfunction in hypothalamic cells causes wide-ranging problems. Her research involves characterizing signalling factors/transcription factor networks that mediate hypothalamic development and defining how hypothalamic stem cells progress into defined neuronal cells and how their axons project to different regions of the hypothalamus. A second focus is the analysis of the signalling factor/transcriptional networks that underlie development of the prechordal mesoderm. Marysia Placzek lives in Sheffield, UK and has four kids.

Eva Rother, Clinics for Paediatrics,University Clinics Cologne, Germany

Eva Rother studied medicine at the Universities of Hamburg and Leipzig. She obtained her medical doctor degree (MD/Dr.med) at the Clinics for Pediatrics, University of Freiburg working on the importance of surfactant protein D for bronchial asthma in children. Enrolling in the MD/PhD program „Molecular Medicine“ at the Centre for Molecular Medicine Cologne (CMMC) she joined the group of Prof. Jens Brüning at the Institute for Genetics, University of Cologne at the end of 2005. Her PhD thesis research focused on the ablation of feeding neurons in the hypothalamus of mice and the analysis of the resulting effects on energy and glucose homeostasis. In 2008 Eva Rother won the prestigious “For Woman in Science” award (20.000 Euro) granted by the Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard Foundation, the German UNESCO Commission and L’Oréal. In the same year she has become Junior Research group leader at the Department of Pediatrics, University Hospital of Cologne. Eva Rother´s research focuses on the question how the mother influences development of the hypothalamus in embryos during pregnancy or the lactation phase. Further, she studies neuronal networks within the hypothalamus that regulate energy and glucose homeostasis of the body. The hypothalamus is the brain region mostly involved in the regulation of energy balance and is composed of different neuronal networks that react to the energy status of the body. Eva Rother´s research has helped to understand that the diet of a mother during the early life of a pup puts the offspring at a lifelong risk for obesity and related negative metabolic outcomes (i.e. type 2 diabetes mellitus). She investigates how this perinatal programming of the brain by nutrition and hormones of the mother during gestation and lactation influences energy homeostasis in the offspring. Eva Rother lives in Cologne and has two children.

Akiko Satake, Division of Theoretical Biology, Hokkaido University, Japan

Since 2008 Akiko Satake is an Associate Professor for Theoretical Biology at the Hokkaido University in Japan. Her research group studies diverse aspects of biological systems using mathematical and computational approaches, exploring mechanisms of reproductive synchrony in plant populations, forest dynamics, human and animal decision-making. Her work includes a broad range of natural and social sciences, including economics, sociology, psychology, and ecology. 
Akiko did her PhD in the Iwasa Lab (Mathematical Biology) at Kyushu University, followed by a PostDoc in the Bjornstad Lab (Entomology) at Pennsylvania State University. She went back to Japan for a PostDoc in the Center for Ecological Research at Kyoto University and again to the US to work at Princeton University in the Princeton Environmental Institute and in the LevinLab which is focused on Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. She then became a group leader at Eawag, Switzerland, one of the world’s leading aquatic research institutes.

Ora Schueler-Furman, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Ora Schueler-Furman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. There, she also studied Biology and did her PhD in Computational Molecular Biology before she went to the University of Washington for Post-Doctoral training in the group of Prof. David Baker. 
Ora is interested in elucidating the structural details that allow for the complexity observed in protein interactions and function. One of her main current research interests is directed towards the accurate modeling of peptide-protein interactions. Therefore, her laboratory makes use of computational tools, including structure-based computational prediction and manipulation of specific interactions, analysis of evolutionary signals hidden in sequences, and large-scale integration of this data by machine-learning approaches. 
In 2012 Ora won the prestigious ERC (European Research Council) Grant Award which she is currently using to set up her own wet lab.
Ora is married to Itay Furman - Lecturer in Physics at the Jerusalem College of Engineering - and the proud mother of three children, Reut (14), Noam (11), and Naveh (5).

Franziska Turck, Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne, Germany

Since 2010 Franziska is a research group leader in the department of Plant Developmental Biology in the MPIPZ. Her research focus is transcriptional regulation of flowering time genes in Arabidopsis. Her group invests special efforts in the development of new tools that are required to decipher the interconnections of transcriptional networks and chromatin in transcriptional control. 
In 1998, after completing her PhD in Basel University in Switzerland, Franziska returned to Cologne to study plant-pathogen interactions as a post-doctoral fellow at the MPIPZ. Thereafter, she continued for another post-doctoral position at the department of Plant Developmental Biology and in 2006 she became a project leader. Franziska is a proud mother of 3 children.

Sara Wickström, Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, Cologne, Germany Sara Wickström studied medicine at the University of Helsinki, Finland and absolved an MD/PhD program receiving her MD in 2001 and PhD in 2004. Her PhD work dealt with the cellular mechanisms of the anti-angiogenic peptide endostatin. She then moved to the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany for her postdoctoral training.  There she continued to work on cell-matrix adhesions and in particular studied their role in tissue morphogenesis.In 2010 she was appointed as a Max Planck Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Ageing in Cologne, Germany. Her research focuses on the mechanisms by which cell-matrix adhesions regulate stem cell homeostasis, carcinogenesis and ageing in the skin. Sara Wickström is married and lives in Cologne. In her free time she likes to play Ultimate Frisbee and also coaches the local Frisbee team in Cologne.

Career Mentoring Workshop

Ruth Willmott, BioScript International, Vienna, Austria

Ruth Willmott is a scientific soft skill and career development trainer and an authority on optimizing training in international PhD programs for those active in the life sciences. R.W. holds a B.Sc. in molecular biology and biochemistry (Durham, UK) and a PhD in molecular genetics (Bristol, UK). After being awarded a Marie Curie fellowship, she moved to Germany where she first pursued postdoctoral research at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding (Cologne). Realizing that her original career aim of being a professor was not going to work out, she then worked on an industrial-based research project at the RWTH (Aachen) in collaboration with Unilever, UK. However, entrepreneurial spirit hit in and she set up her own company “BioScript International” in 1998. Since then, she has trained hundreds of researchers in the craft of scientific and grant writing as well as advised those needing mentoring in making the right choice for their next career step. She currently resides in Vienna, Austria.