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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 family-friendly policies

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 two out of four young female PIs in the SFB873 from non-tenured group leader to full professor or division head during the second 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, with the inclusion of new PIs, the SFB873 again proposes to increase the number of women in leadership positions. Currently, 29% of PIs are female, and we aim for 35% female project leaders in the third funding period. This representation is significantly higher than at any of the participating institutions, eg. the faculty of biosciences (33%), Medical Faculty Heidelberg (13%), or the Medical Faculty Mannheim (2%). Similarly, female scientists were represented in the steering committee of the SFB873 and accounted for two of the six members (25%), guaranteeing a fair representation in our decision-making process. Along these lines, we firmly believe that the visibility of role models is essential to encourage young female scientist to follow a career in research, and consequently the SFB873 invited an equal number of male and female speakers to our flagship symposium. To embed our activities into the nation-wide network of DFG funded coordinated programs, the SFB873 actively participated in the EMBL/DFG Women In Science Network Conference in 2016. The conference not only provided valuable input and ideas to shape our own programs, but also provided an excellent platform for our female scientists to make contacts and develop their network.
At the level of internal measures, we focused on alleviating the most pressing problem for many female PIs, most of which have children, namely the issue of time constraint. To this end, the SFB allocated extra funds to support hiring of lab- and administrative assistants to help with repetitive tasks and free up time for research.
Another important activity to achieve gender equality initiated 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 E. 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. Building on these foundation, this activity was further developed by including all junior scientists in our “Youngsters Into Leadership” (YIL) program the second funding period. This format is based on regular meetings (so far 24 in the second funding period) of a defined group of young SFB873 PIs to continuously work on topics relating to career and family balance, gender awareness and professional development. These meeting were flanked by individual coaching sessions (80 so far) to follow up on the specific needs of our PIs, including ad hoc emergency sessions to 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 E. Jülly.
On a more informal note, we established a regular “Women in Science” lunch, giving our female PIs a platform for networking and casual exchange. Organized by the SFB873 office, this monthly meeting helped to promote a lively and closely-knit network among our female scientists, which has sparked a number of new collaborations.
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.
For the third 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 this measure in the coming funding building on our experience gained so far.
Heidelberg University has recognized that diversity in scientific and non-scientific staff is critical to attracting the most talented and creative minds and ensure their long-term commitment. Consequently, Heidelberg University has implemented an integrated gender action plan for all career levels. In addition, the Gender and Diversity Competence Centre gives advice and support to all members of the University. Current measures include strategies to guarantee transparency in selecting procedures, to enhance the compatibility of study, research and family, to promote leadership skills and the career of women, to provide services for families, as well as to support gender studies. More specifically, Heidelberg University and the state of Baden-Württemberg have implemented fellowships to support women at various career stages (Olympia Morata Program, Rahel Goitein Straus Program, Margarete von Wrangell Program, Schlieben Lange Program). To support scientists with children, the Family-in-Focus Program of the University provides various childcare options: day-care centers (407 places), after-school supervision, on-campus apartments for students with children, availability of help at home (“concierge-service”), qualified English-speaking nannies for children of guest scientists, supervision during conventions and back-up babysitters. The “Clearing service Academia and Family” program helps secure the scientific career while being a parent, e.g. by providing stand-in jobs in case of parental leave. In case of personal emergencies, the “Verfügungsfonds” of the University provides ad-hoc funding for research and qualification. In November 2010, Heidelberg University was certified as a “family-friendly“ university for the first time and the certification was renewed in 2017. Furthermore, Heidelberg University won the TOTAL E-QUALITY award 2017 for its continuous engagement in equality and diversity measures.

 

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, which he represents as spokesperson, as well as professionals involved with our specific activities. The promotion of eight PIs in the SFB873 from group leader to full professor during the past funding periods (also see point 1.2.2) again serves as a testament for the success of our activities and the support of Heidelberg University and DKFZ.
The advancement of young researchers is of particular importance to Heidelberg University. At the level of graduate education, the SFB 873 will build upon a rich culture of excellent training programs. With more than 700 PhDs completed in the life sciences in 2016, Heidelberg University not only ranks amongst the top universities in Germany, but also attracts a large number of students from abroad. Heidelberg University has a strong commitment to providing professional support to PhD students and has integrated its activities in the Graduate Academy, which serves as a central hub for student services, quality control and supports key elements of career development by soft-skills courses, such as scientific writing, presentation and scientific management. With the introduction of the Council for Graduate Studies (CGS), the University established a platform that permits exchange and coordination between the various stakeholders of graduate education. With the “heiDOCS” project the University strategically coordinates the university-wide management and data based evaluation of the conditions and the framework for doctoral students. Once the Excellence Initiative funding has ended the Graduate Academy and the four graduate schools will continue to exist as central research institutions and will be open to all doctoral students of related research fields.
The SFB 873 will work closely with existing graduate schools and structured PhD programs of University and participating institutions/DKFZ to recruit and support the most talented candidates nationally and internationally. 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. Thereby the graduate education within the SFB 873 will take advantage of this rich infrastructure to ensure uniform quality standards in selection, administration, super vision (thesis advisory committees) and graduate training.
For the postdoctoral career phase towards a full professorship Heidelberg University offers three equivalent career tracks: the traditional habilitation, the independent junior research group leader position, and the junior professorship. In order to guarantee more reliable career paths during the postdoctoral phase Heidelberg University has recently launched a new tenure track program for junior professors. Young academics choosing the path of habilitation or the junior research group leader track can enter the tenure track program as well. The program allows for the appointment of a junior professorship to a position where he or she can automatically be promoted to a full professorship based on a positive tenure evaluation after six years. In order to counter an offer to a full professorship by another university the evaluation to promote a junior professor to a full professorship at Heidelberg University can be fast-tracked.
To support the individual development of each junior researcher Heidelberg University offers a number of services, like the Dual Career Service for Postdocs, or the Heidelberg Research Service which advises and supports the procuring of third party funding, including coaching programs which especially address early career programs like the Emmy Noether Programme (DFG) or ERC Grants. An advanced training program, “Towards a Professorship,” offers a broad spectrum of educational opportunities that prepares young scientists for university leadership, management responsibility, and interdisciplinary network-building among other things.
In addition to the institutional framework, 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 past funding periods. 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. 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 encouraged all young scientist to attend career fairs on campus or to participate in courses and seminars organized by the graduate schools of participating institutions. 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. In the second funding period, we have introduced 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 SFB873 not only aims to attract the best researchers, but to promote the careers of young PIs in accordance with DFG or ERC junior investigator programs. Consequently, we are proud to have six colleagues who received an Emmy Noether fellowship from the DFG, four ERC starting grant awardees, as well as two Heisenberg Professors among our team. Working with our young PIs in the first funding period, the topic of professional development has emerged as a top priority. Therefore, we have expanded our activities in this direction and included all junior PIs in the Youngsters Into Leadership coaching program (YIL), which covered topics such as time and personnel management, gender awareness, career and family balance (see also 1.4.2). So far, 24 sessions have been held by Ute E. Jülly, who has a long-standing expertise in coaching and professional development in academic and business environments (see also point 1.2.2) Importantly, we also have introduced personnel development meetings held individually with all non-tenured SFB PIs, the spokesperson and professional coach once a year, to review achievements, set goals and communicate expectations. This measure not only provided a direct channel of communication of junior PIs with the SFB873, but also allowed the spokesperson to closely follow the development of our members and thus provide guidance or assist with networking opportunities.
The success of our activities in the last eight years is clearly documented by the promotion of our junior PIs and prompted us to include three new junior scientists (as defined by time since Ph. D. or appointment other than professor) into our SFB. Since our initiative is applying for the third and final funding period, and thus the horizon for future support is limited to four years, we have carefully

Age distribution of SFB873 PIs
 

selected junior PIs that already have gained substantial experience in leading a lab and have developed a comprehensive research program. The new junior PIs are Sascha Dietrich (B07), Marieke Essers (B13) and Carmen Ruiz de Almodóvar (B14) and 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.
In addition to these new PIs, Lázaro Centanin, who joined the SFB873 as a junior PI for the second funding period, will remain an important part of our community and now has the opportunity for promotion to Junior Professor (See also 1.3.2). Our continuous focus on attracting and carefully developing the best talent has allowed us to maintain a very healthy age balance among our PIs.

 

 

 

Family-Friendly University - Initiatives and Measures

Children´s Centre/Service for Families

Newsletter "Gender and Diversity", "Family in Focus" and "Focus in Fairness"

 

Contact

 

Prof. Dr. Ingrid Lohmann
Heidelberg University
Centre for Organismal Studies (COS)
Developmental Biology
Im Neuenheimer Feld 230
69120 Heidelberg
Phone: +49 6221-54 5523
Email: ingrid.lohmann@cos.uni-heidelberg.de
Christiane Wickenhöfer
Scientific Manager
Im Neuenheimer Feld 230
69120 Heidelberg
Phone: +49 6221-54 6270
Email: christiane.wickenhoefer@cos.uni-heidelberg.de

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