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Cooperation with Harvard

LMU-Harvard Young Scientists’ Forum

München, 06/29/2015

The LMU-Harvard Young Scientists’ Forum 2015, which began at LMU on June 28th, enables young bioscientists at LMU to present and discuss their research findings with their peers and with faculty from one of the world’s leading universities.

Source: Jan Greune / LMU

For academics in all fields, and not only for them, the word ‘Harvard’ has a very special aura. Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts is one of the world’s very best universities – and most students and postgrads at other institutions would jump at a chance to work there. The LMU-Harvard Young Scientists’ Forum brings PhD students and postdoctoral fellows at LMU a step closer to realizing that dream. This key example of international cooperation under the auspices of LMUexcellent is designed to stimulate academic collaboration and exchange of personnel between the two universities.

One of those who has already benefited from the LMU-Harvard Young Scientists’ Forum is Michael Pecka, a postdoc in Neurobiology at LMU. In his view, the exchange program has two major advantages: “First of all, simply having the opportunity to discuss one’s research projects with acknowledged experts from Harvard is fantastic,” he says. But still more important are the personal contacts with other young researchers and with leading specialists from the US, “because they can lead to research collaborations or pave the way to a lab position at Harvard University”, Pecka adds.

From Harvard to LMU – and vice-versa
And that is indeed the goal of the LMU-Harvard Young Scientists’ Forum – to establish and foster contacts between young academics at the two universities: The Symposium takes place in alternate years in Cambridge and in Munich brings gifted early-career researchers in the fields of Chemistry, Pharmacology, Biology, Psychology and Medicine into direct contact with an outstanding community of scientists. “The point of the exercise is to build up a vibrant, person-to-person network between LMU and Harvard University,” says Professor Oliver Behrend of the Munich Center for Neurosciences, who has been involved in organizing the Forum for the past 6 years. For the best part of a week, some 40 young researchers present their current projects and discuss their findings with their peers and established investigators from both universities. “These interactions are enormously stimulating for both sides,” says Behrend, “and they can even lead to unanticipated projects and results.” For LMU, the Forum has also become a way to recruit highly qualified researchers from across the Atlantic, and a means of helping talented LMU doctoral students to find positions in Harvard’s labs.

Mike Myoga is a good example of how this kind of exchange works. Mike is a neurobiologist and had once participated in the LMU-Harvard Young Scientists’ Forum – representing Harvard. Not long ago, he switched sides as it were, and moved to LMU. In his view, the Forum benefits both partners. “I noticed how impressed PhD students from LMU were by Harvard, and how inspiring it was for them to work with people at Harvard. Conversely, for researchers from Harvard, the Forum is a wonderful opportunity to get to know how research is done in Europe.” And, he says, the Forum was very useful for him personally, particularly in connection with his decision to work at LMU.

Probing questions and constructive criticism
The Forum tries to cover a broad swathe of the Biosciences. The spectrum of fields extends from protein chemistry through molecular and systems neurobiology to animal behavior, and takes in interdisciplinary areas such as chronobiology.

“I know of no other international forum in which the scientific interactions are so rewarding,” says LMU’s Pecka. Because the Forum is restricted to a select group of researchers, every postdoc can expect well-founded questions and really substantive and helpful comments on his or her project – without having to worry that one’s findings will be exploited by others. “Three years ago, when I first had the chance to present my research to the Forum, I was tremendously grateful for, and encouraged by, the probing questions and constructive criticisms I received,” he says. “I am looking forward to learning a lot this time round also.”

This year’s LMU-Harvard Young Scientists Forum at LMU runs from June 28th to July 2nd 2015. More than 40 young researchers and established faculty – most of them from LMU and Harvard, but including attendees from the Technical University of Munich (TUM), as well as the Helmholtz Centers and Max Planck Institutes in the city – take part in the Forum each year. The annual LMU-Harvard Young Scientists’ Forum is held alternately at Harvard University in Cambridge, USA and at LMU’s Center for Advanced Studies and High-Tech-Campus Martinsried.  cdr