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Stem Cell Biology

SFB 873

Maintenance and Differentiation of Stem Cells
in Development and Disease


Gender equality Early career support Contact


Gender equality and compatibility of family and scientific career


The SFB873 strongly supports equal opportunity for scientists of both genders and actively seeks to further improve the compatibility of family and scientific career. To this end the SFB873 participates in and supports gender equality and family support measures of the participating institutions, as well as initiated a set of innovative activities tailor made to serve the specific needs of members of the SFB873. Within her role as a steering committee member of the SFB873, Prof. Dr. Ingrid Lohmann has coordinated our gender equality activities and served as a hub for members of the SFB, university administration, as well as professionals involved with our specific activities. The promotion of three out of four young female PIs in the SFB873 from non-tenured group leader to full professor during the first funding period serves as a testament for the success of our activities and the support of Heidelberg University and DKFZ.

Arguably the most important measure to promote gender equality in science is to open doors for female scientists at all levels and activities. Consequently, female scientists were better represented among the PIs of the SFB873 (28%) than in the faculty of biosciences (24%) or among the professors of the entire University of Heidelberg (17%) during the first funding period. For the second funding period, we were able to further improve female PI representation to 32% by including three new projects lead by women, which accounts for 50% of new projects. Similarly, female scientist were represented in the steering committee of the SFB873 and accounted for two of the seven members (28%), guaranteeing a fair representation in our decision-making process.

Focusing on the specific needs of our female junior PIs, all of which have children, we developed and implemented measures to alleviate the most pressing problem, the issue of time constraint. To this end, the SFB hired an administrative assistant to significantly reduce the admin load, since at the junior PI level, this service is usually not covered by the host institutions. The admin assistance was very well received and excellent working conditions for female PIs were thus secured. With the promotion of three out of four female junior PIs the SFB terminated this activity and the admin assistant was subsequently hired permanently into one of the new departments. Another important activity to achieve gender equality initiated and developed by the SFB during the first funding period was personal coaching as a way to optimize time management, advance leadership and provide guidance to harmonize family matters and scientific career. The program was carried out by Ute Jülly, a highly rated personal coach with many years of experience in academic and business environments. Starting with group discussions the most pressing issues faced by young female scientists were defined and subsequently tackled in individual coaching sessions. This offer was again very well received: six female PIs participated and a total of 60 sessions were carried out. In addition to these scheduled coachings, the program offered ad hoc meetings to be able to quickly react to situations of crisis or sudden conflict. The performance and success of the measure was continuously monitored by the steering committee represented by Ingrid Lohmann through obtaining direct feedback from the participating scientists and regular meetings with Ute Jülly. These activities were also open to incoming female group leaders and Claudia Scholl, as well as Gislene Pereira actively participated.

In addition to promoting female scientists, the SFB873 actively sought to make all its activities as family friendly as possible. One good example is the timing of SFB meetings, which were exclusively held during core work hours. Meetings include our seminars for internal and external speakers, which take place on Fridays at noon, followed by catered lunch to foster informal exchange of ideas, but also extend to meetings of the steering committee or the general SFB assembly. Along these lines we made sure to minimize time away from Heidelberg for our regular retreats and to offer child-care during the SFB symposia held on campus to facilitate the participation of scientists with families. Furthermore, the SFB873 lent financial support for child-care to help scientists moving to Heidelberg.

For the coming funding period we will continue our successful activities to promote gender equality and family-friendliness and will further rely on core support by Heidelberg University and DKFZ, as outlined below. Since the professional coaching program was rated very highly, we plan to continue and expand this measure in the coming funding period by including all female and junior scientists. Based on the feedback from the first funding period, we have defined two major topics, which will form the focus of two coaching programs, namely “Growing into leadership” and “Balancing career and family”, which will be carried out by Ute Jülly.

Heidelberg University offers an excellent framework for family support and gender equality and thus contributes significantly to the activities of the SFB. Heidelberg University implemented a Gleichstellungskonzept (gender action plan) including measures to guarantee transparency in selecting procedures, to enhance the compatibility of study, research and family, to increase the percentage of female students in the natural sciences, to ensure the career of women and to support gender studies. The Heidelberg University has also implemented the Olympia Morata Program to promote habilitations by female scientists and the Rahel-Goitein-Straus-Program of the Medical Faculty Heidelberg to support women between dissertation and habilitation. Two further programs, the Margarete-von-Wrangell-Program and the Schlieben-Lange-Program, are supported by the State of Baden-Württemberg to support female scientists. In addition, a specific mentoring and training program for female researchers within the life sciences is organized by the equal opportunities commissioner in cooperation with the Faculty of Medicine and the DKFZ, aimed at the education and preparation for leadership for women qualifying for a career in science. Heidelberg University offers a total of 335 places for children (in the age range from 2 months to 6 years). This includes both full-time child-care (Kinderhaus), the daycare MEDI-KIDS and a ‘just in time’ or ‘back-up’ care initiative (KidsClub). The Medical Faculty Mannheim (Department of Gender Mainstreaming) has offered professional consulting for women, parents, students and colleagues in difficult life situations or with individual problems since 2008.


Early career support


The SFB873 is fully committed to the active support of young investigators and promotes young researchers at all levels of their careers. To this end the SFB873 participates in early career support measures of the participating institutions, as well as initiated a set of innovative activities tailor made to serve the specific needs of members of the SFB873. Within his role as a steering committee member of the SFB873, Prof. Dr. Joachim Wittbrodt has coordinated our early career support activities and served as a hub for members of the SFB, the HBIGS graduate school (where he is a member of the executive board), as well as professionals involved with our specific activities. The promotion of five PIs in the SFB873 from group leader to full professor during the first funding period again serves as a testament for the success of our activities and the support of Heidelberg University and DKFZ.

While the success of our junior PIs has been highly visible, the SFB873 has also been very active to provide extensive graduate training for PhD students, MD students as well as scientific educational programs for postdoctoral fellows throughout the first funding period. Along these lines, we have initiated a monthly seminar for internal progress report, which not only provides an excellent platform for all junior scientists to present and discuss their latest results, but also facilitates exchange of ideas over common lunch, which is served immediately following the talks. To further foster direct interactions between early career scientists, we have held annual Young Scientists Retreats away from Heidelberg. These two-day excursions only partially overlap with the PI retreat, giving Ph. D. and M. D. students, as well as postdocs ample opportunity to interact and discuss without the sometimes imposing presence of PIs. Thus, our junior scientists present their work in talks or on posters, discuss emerging topics and ideas, enjoy outdoor activities together and select the best presentation in a competitive process during the first 1.5 days. Finally, students and postdocs wrap up their results and present them to the assembled PIs of the SFB873 in talks and posters during the remaining afternoon. This format was met with enthusiastic response and we intend to continue this program for the second funding period. Importantly, the Young Scientists Retreat was open to junior scientists from SFB873 groups who were not on SFB payroll, as well as for a small number of members from associated groups, substantially increasing the reach of our activities. An important topic for junior scientists is career development and therefore, the SFB873 devoted one Young Scientists Retreat to the issue. Guest speakers from different career stages and professional backgrounds, including academic and commercial research, as well as business consulting reported on their situation, career paths and perspectives. Since this activity was embedded into a retreat, our young scientists had ample opportunity to interact with the invited guests over meals and drinks and develop first professional connections.

In addition to our own activities, the SFB873 is fully embedded into the extensive graduate training infrastructure of Heidelberg University and DKFZ. All graduates are associated with either the Hartmut Hoffmann-Berling Graduate School for Molecular and Cellular Biology (HBIGS), funded by the Excellence Initiative, or the Helmholtz International Graduate School for Cancer Research of the DKFZ. Both programs provide a highly professional recruitment system for graduates and offer structured training including thesis advisory committees (TACs), lectures, classes, practical courses, poster presentations, meetings and summer schools in which SFB873 graduates participate



While we are very happy with our success so far, which is also nicely reflected in the balanced age distribution among our PIs, we will further develop early career support in the coming funding phase. The first step is the inclusion of five new subprojects (A11, Centanin; A12, Scholl/Glimm; A13, Lutz, A14, Pereira and Z03, Engel) lead by junior PIs (as defined by time since Ph. D. or appointment other than professor), two of which were recruited from former SFB873 members (A11, Centanin; A13, Lutz).


Age distribution of SFB873 PIs

Based on the scientific performance and input into the development of the SFB873 so far, we are confident that these colleagues will significantly boost our initiative.

Furthermore, we plan to introduce a postdoc lunch with external speakers during our monthly seminars and meetings as an important measure to raise the profile of our postdocs and to provide additional opportunity to directly interact with established scientists from the community. The postdoc lunch will be held on the day preceding the seminar or meeting and places will be assigned on a first come, first served basis. Another important aspect for the second funding period will be postdoc mentoring. While Ph. D. students are guided by TACs, postdocs largely depend on the interactions with their PIs. To provide a broader input without interfering with the professional independence of our postdocs, we will introduce a mentoring program, in which every postdoc of the SFB873 can choose a mentor among the SFB873 PIs to hold regular, but informal meetings. We will suggest to have two meetings per year, but envision that the individual needs of our postdocs should and will dictate the number of interactions with their mentors. By providing a trusted, yet unbiased perspective, we expect that our mentors will guide postdocs in questions of career development, conflict management and work-life balance.

Since the topic of professional development has emerged as a top priority during our coaching of female junior PIs, we have recognized that this topic deserves further attention. We will therefore expand our activities in this direction to include all junior scientists from Ph. D. and M.D. students to junior PIs. We will dedicate one young scientists retreat to professional development and will hold coaching sessions on the topics of time management, presentation and interaction skills, discrimination awareness and conflict management. These sessions will be held by Ute Jülly and her Sellsbridge team, who have a long standing expertise in coaching and professional development in academic and business environments.

Family in Focus at Heidelberg University


Forschen für Morgen – 12 Antworten aus 12 Disziplinen der Wissenschaft


Newsletter "Kinderhaus der Universität Heidelberg"

Newsletter Dezember 2016

Newsletter Dezember 2015

Newsletter Dezember 2014

Newsletter Juli 2014

Newsletter Dezember 2013

Newsletter Juli 2013

Newsletter "Gender and Diversity"

Newsletter Dezember 2014

Newsletter Mai 2014

Newsletter April 2013

Newsletter April 2012

Newsletter Dezember 2011



Prof. Dr. Ingrid Lohmann
Prof. Dr. Ingrid Lohmann
Im Neuenheimer Feld 230
69120 Heidelberg
Fon +49 6221 54-5523
Fax +49 6221 54-6424
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Christiane Wickenhöfer
Im Neuenheimer Feld 230
69120 Heidelberg
Fon +49 6221 54-6270
Fax +49 6221 54-6424
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Scientific Manager


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