Interviews and Stories



Rosa Garcia-Verdugo studied biochemistry and after some years at the bench, got a PhD in Neurobiology at the Max Planck Institute. She was an IMPRS-LS student from 2010 to 2015, working with Prof. Dr. Tobias Bonhoeffer. She is the founder of the website and collaborates with various science outreach networks in Spanish and English. Rosa currently works as a science journalist for the German Cancer Research Centre and as a freelance writer and communication consultant for biotech companies and European-funded research projects.


I would like to start with asking you about your memories of IMPRS, what was your project about and how do you remember your time as an IMPRS student?

My project dealt with neuronal plasticity in the mouse visual cortex and since it was an in vivo project, I worked with a mouse and a microscope. It was a very challenging, frustrating and lonely time but the IMPRS group we had, was really nice. I remember very fondly the IMPRS retreat, it was really fun and most of the workshops and talks were interesting. It was a good part of the PhD. Without it, it probably wouldn’t have been as good.


Was it already during your PhD time that you became interested in scientific communication?

Actually, it started before then. I was working in Barcelona in a research lab and, through a postdoc friend and some open science festivals that I was involved in, I started getting interested in the topic. Then, I started my own blog. It was a really small site, but it started growing. I started building a network, getting in touch with like-minded people who were doing it and were more read more


BoxesThe process of obtaining a doctoral degree is like a scavenger hunt without a map – thrilling, fun but also exhausting. All of us face completely new situations and adventures with lots of surprises and unexpected twists in work and lifestyle. Not only science itself, but also the working environment features fluctuations and changes. Surely, you noticed the continual coming and going of not only staff but also labs in big institution like the Max Planck Institutes, but never cared until you are one of them. It is not eyebrow-raising that some of us deal with the moving of their lab during their PhD time – but you are not alone (just google it!). Although organizations are rather bad at keeping track of numbers, there are plenty of reports of students. At least three labs with IMPRS PhD students came to meet these obstacles – willingly or unwillingly (I am one of those – hooray!).

Relocating a lab to a different city, country or even continent always goes along with stress and time delay (and also lots of costs). Early planning is the key. Roughly one year before the actual moving (X day), I knew I would be finishing the second half of my PhD studies on the other side of the Atlantic – in the US.

Wrap it up..! (2 months to day X)

A challenging part was not only to apply for visa, look for a payable apartment and plan necessities for a new life, but also to finish everything that is related to the former institution. Preparing final replicates, imaging last slides with familiar equipment and utilizing the high standard facilities for final assays, this filled my days before the flight. It was a bittersweet feeling to trash all tubes presenting accumulated hard work read more


Ryan Sherrard


Ryan Sherrard joined the IMPRS-LS program in 2013 after completing a Master’s program in Biochemistry at LMU. He is enrolled in the faculty of Biology at the LMU in the lab of Prof Dr Barbara Conradt. Ryan also has the role of an IMPRS-LS student representative and is very much involved in many aspects of the program.

Why did you choose to do your PhD with IMPRS?

The Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry is world-renowned and offers PhD candidates the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research. The IMPRS-LS program offers a well-structured curriculum with many benefits, as well as the chance to network across the campus and other institutes. Together, it makes for a prestigious program that attracts talented young scientists from all around the world.

Why did you come to Germany and what are the best aspects of studying here at the LMU?

If you are considering studying abroad, you will find no better place than Munich! I instantly fell in love with this city while traveling around Europe, and decided to move here shortly after. Munich consistently ranks among the top cities in the world for qualify of life, and there is always something going on—summer in the biergartens, winter in the christmas markets, and plenty of festivals through out the year! In addition, the LMU offers tuition-free education for everyone, so the decision to study in Munich was an easy one for me.

How did you adjust to living in Germany and to the change in culture and language?

As a Canadian adjusting to life in Germany is not difficult, especially when the IMPRS-LS coordination office are there to help you every step of the way. The read more

Short biography

Dr Maria Patra joined the IMPRS-LS program in 2010 after completing a Master’s program in Biochemistry at the TUM. She was working at the Adolf Butenandt Institute of the LMU in the lab of Prof Dr Jörg Tatzelt and Prof Dr Konstanze Winklhofer, where she completed her PhD thesis titled “Effects of Parkin and mutant Huntingtin on the NF-kB signaling pathway” in 2015. Maria now works as a research scientist for the biotech company MorphoSys, based in Martinsried, Munich.

Why did you choose to do your PhD with IMPRS?

The international aspect of IMPRS sounded very appealing to me, as you gain access to an excellent worldwide scientific network by being a member of this exceptional PhD program. IMPRS not only provides insights into different institutes and scientific fields based in Munich, but also different cultures from all over the world. I greatly enjoyed this colorful bouquet of inspiration possibilities within the last few years - both on a professional as well as on a personal level.

Why did you choose Munich and what did you find to be the best aspects of studying at the LMU?

During my Master’s program at the Technical University Munich, I already experienced that Munich holds huge potential for fruitful collaborations and exchanging ideas with experts from various research fields. Therefore, I decided to stay here and deepen my research activities in this promising surrounding.
As I was interested to do my PhD in Neuroscience and concentrate on neurodegenerative diseases in particular, one group at the LMU offered the most compelling research topic to me. Furthermore, the institute I chose, was also integrated in many other research alliances, which complemented the scientific network provided by read more

Short Biography

Samira Parhizkar from Sweden joined the IMPRS-LS program after getting an MSci degree in Neuroscience from the University of Nottingham, UK. Samira is currently conducting her doctoral studies at the DZNE (German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases) in the area of neurodegeneration.
She recently participated in a science vlog project organized by Watch Samira's vlogs to find out her top tips for relocating to another country and to take a peek into a PhD student’s life.

About my vlog


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Short Biography

Daniel Hornburg studied molecular biotechnology at the Technical University of Munich and the Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, USA). In 2010, he received the EXIST entrepreneurial fellowship (BMBF) for the development of enzymatic complexes to degrade resilient substrates. Daniel joined the lab of Matthias Mann for his PhD studies in 2011 where he devised, developed and applied proteomics technologies to investigate neurodegenerative diseases. As postdoctoral fellow, Daniel has joined the group of Systems Immunology at the MPI of Biochemistry in 2015 to work on clinical proteomics. During his stay at the MPI of Biochemistry he has been strongly involved in research associated with the ToPAG (Toxic Protein AGgregation in Neurodegeneration) project. ToPAG is a prestigious six-year interdisciplinary research project funded by the EU and carried out by two Max Planck Institutes. Key to the success of this project is collaborative research and the exchange of ideas and results between several cutting edge labs from different institutes.

What do you like about IMPRS?

The IMPRS program offers unique opportunities on multiple levels. Firstly, the impressive repertoire of scientific soft skill workshops not only allowed me to acquire new expertise in a broader context but also to specifically develop core competences, for example, in scientific writing and grant application. Secondly, IMPRS provides a great, interdisciplinary scientific network that fueled many collaborative projects we have published in recent years.  Thirdly, I am confident I will benefit from an active alumni network in my future career.

Why did you choose Munich and what did you enjoy about living in this city?

Munich offers one of the read more

Short biography

Amy Gerc completed her PhD in microbiology at the University of Dundee in Scotland in 2014 and moved to Germany shortly afterwards. She joined the IMPRS-LS coordination office in November 2015 as a trainee in science management and is currently involved in organizing many aspects of the IMPRS-LS PhD program.

Why did you decide to come to Germany and how did you adjust to the changes in language and culture?

The decision to come to Germany for me was a simple one. My husband (boyfriend at the time) is German and has lived and worked in Munich for more than 10 years. After completing my PhD in Scotland I was in a position where I knew I could start on something completely new and the opportunity to move to Germany seemed too exciting not to embrace. In terms of culture, Munich certainly has it’s own traditions however I wouldn’t say that it is hugely different to our way of life in Scotland (except for the fact that the weather is a million times better!). You can certainly get by in Munich only speaking in English as it’s a very international city, however, since many of my friends and family are German I knew I wanted to learn the language. I have to admit this was not easy! I am now fairly fluent and I believe my learning the language has really enriched my experiences here.

Why did you decide to apply to IMPRS-LS for the position as a trainee in science management?

Throughout my PhD I was involved in the organization of a number of events, particularly public outreach events, and I knew that the planning, development and organization of these activities was something that I really enjoyed. Whilst I knew I wanted to stay in science, I was keen to explore options away from the bench. The Max Planck read more

Sally Deeb

Short biography

Sally Deeb from Lebanon joined the IMPRS-LS after getting a Bachelor’s degree in science at the Lebanese University and a Master’s degree in biology at the American University of Beirut. She was conducting her doctoral studies in the area of proteomics at the MPI of Biochemistry, where she completed her thesis titeled "MS-based Quantitative Proteomics for Molecular Cancer Diagnostics" in 2014.

Why did you decide to come to Germany for a PhD?

For me who wanted to pursue a science-related career, Germany was one of the best options to do my PhD. The country is well-known in many fields of research, and in particular, it is famous for its leading technologies and internationally competitive labs in biology, biotechnology and biochemistry. Also, the pharmaceutical industry in Germany plays an important role. So there were some good reasons for me to come here after I completed my Master’s degree in Lebanon.

In 2009, you started your PhD at the IMPRS-LS in Munich. Why did you choose an International Max Planck Research School?

In my last year at the American University of Beirut, I heard about the IMPRS from a colleague who was already in Munich and recommended the doctoral program. First, it was important for me to choose an English-speaking PhD program. What makes it very attractive is that after the first round of selection it offers an interview week which allows applicants to visit the labs and have a closer look at the research going on. The IMPRS-LS is specialised in life sciences and was exactly the doctoral programme i was looking for. I did my research in a proteomics lab, where I apply the latest mass spectrometry technology to try to characterise read more

Garwin Pichler

Short biography

Dr. Garwin Pichler studied biochemistry at the LMU Munich and completed his thesis titled “Crosstalk between histone modifications and DNA methylation” in 2008. Garwin was enrolled as an IMPRS student at the faculty of biology at the LMU Munich. He has many years of experience in the development of high-throughput platforms for the mass spectrometry-based proteomic analyses of clinically-relevant samples such as blood plasma and urine. Whilst conducting his research, Garwin studied "Business and Management" in parallel to gain knowledge of strategic and operational processes in companies. Prior to founding his own company, Garwin worked as consultant for the spin-off ChromoTek GmbH to prepare the market entry of products for academic research.

Why did you choose to do your PhD with IMPRS?

I had been working at the MPI of Biochemistry for my Master Thesis and decided to do my PhD thesis in the faculty of biology at the LMU Munich. I decided to apply for the IMPRS program to allow me to be able to use the advantages of all associated institutes. As an IMPRS student, I was able to collaborate with a group at the MPI of Biochemistry as well as with a group at the faculty of biochemistry at the LMU Munich in a interdisciplinary manner.

Why did you choose Munich and what are the best aspects of studying here?

That’s simple ;-) It is a combination of the best research structure in Europe, the high living standards of Munich as well as the fact that I have been living and enjoying life in Munich now for over 30 years.

How did the IMPRS program help with preparing you for life after your PhD?

I wouldn’t say prepare but it definitely facilitated my read more