Opening Ceremony of the Max Planck Schools

September 12, 2019

Berlin, September 11th: The Max Planck Schools have kicked off their first year with an opening ceremony. On this occasion, Anja Karliczek, the Federal Minister for Education and Research, welcomed the first student cohort: “It is wonderful to see so many ambitious and extremely promising graduates and doctoral students from all over the world, who are enriching German science by enrolling at one of the new Max Planck Schools. They are part of a highly innovative pilot project based on the concept of decentralised, research-based teaching, which is jointly funded by universities and research institutions. This experiment is one of the most innovative projects in Germany in terms of top-class teaching structures.” Also present were representatives of the partner organisations, many scientists involved in the schools and supporters from the very beginning, including the former President of the German Rectors' Conference, Horst Hippler, and Ferdi Schüth, Vice President of the Max Planck Society.

The Symposium was characterized by multidisciplinary collegial exchange amongst members of participating institutions across a wide range of career stages. In his welcoming address, Martin Stratmann, President of the Max Planck Society and co-initiator of the project, emphasized the core idea of the Max Planck Schools: distributed research excellence under one roof. "Each School involves very different disciplines. Doctoral students can make use of this diversity and create their own new science in their minds! In this way, they create an individual basis for their careers. The thematic breadth and the opportunity to get to know the entire diversity of the German research and higher education landscape is unique and, in my opinion, also the essential difference to other graduate programs," he explained.

The selected doctoral candidates themselves made it clear why they applied to the Max Planck Schools. "For me, good equipment, a strong scientific network and the combination of theory and experiment were important," said Karl Michael Ziems, who is starting his doctorate at the Max Planck School of Photonics. Bojana Grujičić of the Max Planck School of Cognition explained: "My goal is to better understand the cognitive complexity of humans through the different ways of explaining cognitive science. The Max Planck School of Cognition offers me, in addition to the interdisciplinary environment, the opportunity to gain insights into various scientific approaches through laboratory rotations and to return to basic philosophical questions. This is an outstanding feature for me." Niklas Rindtorff, a future PhD candidate at the Max Planck School Matter to Life, emphasized the clear commitment to cooperation and interdisciplinarity, the claim to excellence, and the thematic diversity that forces everyone to think outside the box.

Peter-André Alt, President of the German Rectors' Conference (HRK), who is providing strategic support to the initiative together with the Max Planck Society President, focused on the future: "The doctorate is not only the first step in a scientific career, but also opens up opportunities for challenging activities outside universities or research institutions. The Max Planck Schools therefore also offer doctoral candidates broad qualifications and cooperate with partners, for example from industry." And Stefan Hell, Nobel Laureate and Fellow at both the Max Planck Schools of Matter to Life and Photonics, added in his lecture, "Stay grounded and reach for the stars!”

Max Planck Schools - a joint initiative between German Universities and German Research Organizations

Distributed research excellence under one roof is the main idea behind the Max Planck Schools, which were founded in 2017 by Federal Research Minister Johanna Wanka, Max Planck Society President Martin Stratmann, and President of the German Rectors' Conference Horst Hippler. Since then, 27 Universities and more than 30 research institutions have joined the initiative. Of these partners, a prominent role is taken on by 12 main entities: the Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, the Georg August University Göttingen, the Humboldt University Berlin, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the Technical University Munich as well as the Universities of Düsseldorf, Heidelberg and Leipzig, the DWI Aachen, the Fraunhofer Society, and the Max Planck Society. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding the initiative with 45 million euros.

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