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COS Symposia Series

Our international COS Symposia Series aims to gather top-level scientists working in forefront topics of organismal biology. The Symposia are held bi-annually and typically  attract more than 300 people. Particular attention is given to the selection of speakers, who are not only recognized leaders and pioneers in their fields but also enthusiastic presenters, able to communicate science to a broader audience of young and senior scientists.


Genetics 2019: Old Questions and New Frontiers

Symposium Banner 2017

June 6-7, 2019 / Im Neuenheimer Feld 360 / COS Heidelberg

Genes determine form and function of all organisms. Since the discovery of genetics by Gregor Mendel circa 1866, researchers from all over the world have been working to unravel how genes control the development, physiology, and behaviour of living things. Thanks to a number of technological breakthroughs in the last ten years, modern-day genetic research has enjoyed a Renaissance. 

New methods of genome sequencing have allowed us to decipher the genes of numerous species, and highly precise gene scissors now make it possible to replace individual sequences in the code of life. Because of environmental destruction and climate change, more and more species are under threat or being forced out by more robust species. To monitor and mitigate these ever-faster changes, we need a deep understanding of the genetic foundations of adaptation and evolution. 

This year’s COS Symposium covers the entire spectrum of modern genetics and aims to build a bridge from the genetic network that controls the function of individual cells to the genetic diversity in natural populations. Speakers will also explore approaches to the analysis and treatment of diseases and the enormous challenges posed by computer-assisted analysis of genetic data. 

Detlef Weigel, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tuebingen, will deliver a public evening lecture entitled “Climate in Transition – Plants in Transition” to provide insights into modern genome research. 

This year’s COS Symposium will be held on June 6 and 7 in the lecture hall of the building located at Im Neuenheimer Feld 360. 

Speakers: Brenda Andrews (Toronto), Eileen Furlong (Heidelberg), Stacy Harmer (Davis), Martin Jonikas (Princeton), Claudia Köhler (Uppsala), Trudy Mackay (Raleigh), Ortrun Mittelsten Scheid (Vienna), Duncan Odom (Heidelberg), Elaine Ostrander (Bethesda), Nikolaus Rajewsky (Berlin), Korbinian Schneeberge (Cologne), Diethard Tautz (Plön), Detlef Weigel (Tübingen)

Visit meeting webpage for venue information and more.

Download programposter and the public lecture's poster

Online-registration is closed.


Senses and Sensitivity (2017)

Symposium Banner 2017

June 21-22, 2017 / Im Neuenheimer Feld 230 / COS Heidelberg

How do organisms process signals originating from their immediate environment and respond with specific physiological and behavioral responses that maximize their fitness?

The key to the 2017 Symposium is that plants and animals have evolved from common ancestors from which they inherited similar biological machineries in their cells, but they interact with their environment in very different ways. Plants usually must stay in one place (except for their seeds and pollen) and thus must either tolerate whatever challenges their environment presents or plastically adjust their phenotypes. By contrast, many (but not all) animals can move and use behavior to escape from or respond to environmental challenges. We expect that discussions on shared conceptual approaches employed by invited scientists, most particularly with respect to the most prototypical molecular bases to environmental responses, will motivate further perspectives on evolutionary convergences in signal transduction and integration.

Speakers: Chris Bowler (Paris), Tiago Branco (Cambridge), Marieke Essers (Heidelberg), Nick Foulkes (Karlsruhe), Rainer Hedrich (Würzburg), Jonathan Jones (Norwich) (The EMBO Keynote Lecture) , Charalambos Kyriacou (Leicester), Paloma Mas (Barcelona), Anne Pfeiffer, Lucia Prieto-Godino (Lausanne), Anke Steppuhn (Berlin), Aurelio Teleman (Heidelberg)

Online-registration is closed.

Download poster, program and abstract book.


Darwin 2.0 - New Tools to Go Through Time (2015)

June 17, 2015 / Im Neuenheimer Feld 230 / COS Heidelberg 


How have organisms evolved novel traits that allowed them to explore new ecological niches, and how do we reconstruct this process from evidence available today?

This question will be addressed during the 2015 Symposium by unifying differing experimental approaches used to infer the evolutionary history, ranging from the origin of animal diversity during the Cambrian explosion to recent efforts to assess the impact of environmental change on the evolution of global ecosystems. We expect this Symposium to serve as an exchange of new results and current models, to excite young scientists and to spark new ideas for questions, approaches, and the use of novel model systems to investigate the links between evolution, development and ecology. 

Speakers: Patrícia Beldade (Oeiras), Francesca Benzoni (Milan), Graham Budd (Uppsala), Emmanuel Gaquerel (Heidelberg), Nicolas Gompel (Munich), Gáspár Jékely (Tübingen), Jose Jimenez-Gomez (Cologne), Steffen Lemke (Heidelberg), John Pannell (Lausanne), Ulrich Technau (Vienna), Alexandros Stamatakis (Heidelberg)

Download poster, program, and abstract book.



Building Beauty - From Genes to Shape (2013)

June 21, 2013 / Im Neuenheimer Feld 230 / COS Heidelberg 


How is the genetic information of an organism translated to generate tissues from cells, and how are then tissues re-modelled to generate complex three dimensional biological structures such as a flower or a brain?

This question was addressed during the 2013 Symposium by bridging biological scales (cell, tissue and organisms), a wide range of models (mice, yeast, fish, hydra, flies, plants, cells), and an integration of quantitative approaches (mathematics, physics, modelling). The interdisciplinary nature of the symposium and the general appeal of the topic has served as an excellent platform to foster discussions and exchange of expertise between different scientific fields related to morphogenetic processes. 

Speakers: Andrea Brand (Cambridge), Damian Brunner (Zürich), Francois Graner (Paris), Thomas Lecuit (Marseille), Alexis Maizel (Heidelberg), Olivier Pertz (Basel), Alain Prochiantz (Paris), Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz (Calgary), Erez Raz (Münster), Ulrich Schwarz (Heidelberg), Jan Traas (Lyon), Mihaela Zigmann (Heidelberg)

Download poster and program.



At the Root of Stemness (2012)

July 6, 2012 / Im Neuenheimer Feld 230 / COS Heidelberg 


What are the common mechanisms and functions of stems cells employed in organismal development and maintenance?

This question was addressed during the 2012 Symposium by sampling diverse experimental systems (fish, hydra, flies, plants, sponges, worms, salamanders) and highlighting similarities as well as differences in the control, use, and function of stem cells. Among the participants, the broad range of species and systems presented by the invited speakers led to fruitful discussions on developmental and evolutionary aspects of stem cell biology. 

Speakers: Alexa Bely (Maryland), Jeremy Brockes (London), Bruce Edgar (Heidelberg), Noriko Funayama (Kyoto), Volker Hartenstein (California), Mitsuyasu Hasebe (Okazaki), Thomas Holstein (Heidelberg), Jan Lohmann (Heidelberg), Elliot Meyerowitz (Cambridge), Jochen Wittbrodt (Heidelberg)

Download poster and program.



From Molecules to Living Systems (2011)

May 13, 2011 / Im Neuenheimer Feld 230 / COS Heidelberg 


How are living organisms made up by molecular interactions?

This question was addressed during the inaugural 2011 Symposium. The question reflected the recent merging of the former University of Heidelberg Institutes of Zoology and Plant Sciences and the aim of the newly founded Centre for Organismal Studies: To understand the molecular mechanisms in the context of the entire organism. The speakers represented the various disciplines of the new research centre ranging from physiology and metabolism to cell biology and development, both in plants and animals.  

Philip Benfey (North Carolina), Eddy de Robertis (California), Jiri Friml (Ghent), Oliver Hobert (New York), Elisa Izaurralde (Tübingen), Herbert Jäckle (Göttingen), Steve Kay (California), Pamela Soltis (Florida), Lothar Willmitzer (Potsdam)

Download poster.



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