All Good Things Come in Threes
The Third Annual Max Planck Schools Day
The third Max Planck Schools Day took place online on October 13, 2021. It showcased the strength and scope of the Max Planck Schools’ network while critically reflecting on the leading topic “Diversity in Science”. While welcoming the third cohort of students at the three pilot Schools – Cognition, Matter to Life and Photonics – the Max Planck Society and the German Rectors’ Conference invited all Schools’ members as well as diversity experts to virtually celebrate the start of the new academic year.
Last week, over 130 participants took part in the virtual Max Planck Schools Day live broadcasted from the Harnack Haus in Berlin. The new cohort was welcomed with a video specially made by Max Planck Schools students. In his subsequent welcome address, Martin Stratmann, President of the Max Planck Society, spoke about a very personal matter: the beginnings of his own passion for science and his experiences as a young PhD student. He stressed that he still looks back on this period as one of the happiest in his life, encouraging all Max Planck Schools students to always follow their intuition, to go about things the way they feel is right, to experiment, and to take the path that feels most natural to them.
"The Max Planck Schools are designed to overcome institutional and regional boundaries in order to create a new quality of graduate education, and in particular by giving students insight into different fields, different approaches", stated Stratmann in his opening speech.
Christine Silberhorn, Fellow of the Max Planck School of Photonics, also found her passion for science during her PhD. In her insightful lecture – live broadcasted from University of Paderborn – and the subsequent Q&A session via chat, she directly addressed the PhD students and gave them advice on this crucial phase in a scientist’s career – regarding fundamental questions, but also day-to-day challenges. Students should not be afraid to ask supposedly “stupid” questions, she encouraged, because people just might not have thought about that before.
Spearheading the panel discussion on “Diversity and Excellence in Science”, the focus topic of this year's Max Planck Schools Day, Gülay Çağlar (Professor for Gender and Diversity at Otto-Suhr-Institut der Freien Universität Berlin), gave insights in `Diversity in Higher Education between Inclusion, Equity and Belonging`. Following a basic definition of the concept of diversity, she brought the audience’s attention to the challenges of diversity and necessary inclusion of a diverse student body and faculty in academia.
Invigorated by the input lecture, the participants on the panel quickly engaged in a vivid discussion. Moderated by Monika Seynsche, Gülay Çağlar, Eberhard Bodenschatz (Director Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization), Audrey Namdiero-Walsh (European Operations Dierector & Acting Director Gender and Inclusion African Institute for Mathematical Sciences), Matthias Bolz ( Media & Marketing Manager Max Planck School of Cognition) and Surabhi Nath (PhD candidate Max Planck School of Cognition) found themselves in a stimulating conversion about diversity and excellence in the academic context. The panelists did not only discuss the means to a successful implementation of diversity at universities and research organizations but also touched upon the consequences of unconscious biases in a “fair” application process and the necessity of resources and funding to make institutions more diverse, more inclusive, more equitable and more so that diverse group of people can belong.
This year's panel (from left to right): Gülay Çağlar, Eberhard Bodenschatz, Audrey Namdiero-Walsh, Matthias Bolz, Surabhi Nath and our moderator Monika Seynsche.
The panelists quickly started a lively discussion on the necessity of implementing a diverse student body within the Max Planck Schools.
Matthias Bolz and Surabhi Nath (both from the Max Planck School of Cognition) shared their own perspectives on the matter.
The discussion quickly picked up steam and the panelists discussed the topic of "Diversity and Excellence in Science" controversially and dealt with it in a very differentiated way.
Audrey Namdiero-Walsh from the African Institute for Mathematical Science (AIMS) used the example of the AIMS to show how it can be possible to approach the topic in an academic context.
In order to integrate the audience into the whole paneldiscussion, the participants could ask questions via Slido and actively contribute to the debate. The word cloud shown in the picture answered the question of how the viewers have perceived diversity so far.
PhD candidate Surabhi Nath from the Max Planck School of Cognition provided insights from the student perspective, giving important impetus to the discussion.
The few spectators on site were able to follow the panel discussion live from the studio in the Harnack Haus in Berlin.
As this was the second virtual Max Planck Schools Day, we set up a professional studio in order to live-broadcast the paneldiscussion from Harnack Haus in Berlin.
After a short break, representatives of the Max Planck Schools student body presented their research topics. In three inspiring science talks, Brianda Lopez-Santini from the MPS Matter to Life, Emma Celina Brambila Tamayo from the MPS Photonics and Caedyn Stinson from the MPS Cognition conveyed their curiosity and passion for science in their respective fields to the audience.
Peter-André Alt, President of the German Rectors' Conference, rounded up the event in his closing remarks. He specifically emphasized the benefit of the diverse network of the Max Planck Schools, which makes the Schools unique and encouraged all students to continue to challenge bad practices, for example regarding diversity in science and academia, wherever and whenever they occur.
Despite the virtual nature of the event, exchange across the Schools, research areas and cohorts was possible via a networking session for the students of all three cohorts hosted on gather.town, where the students could meet for a pub-quiz, engaging discussion and informal get-togethers.
One final highlight was the opportunity to co-organize this year’s Max Planck Schools Day with the Student Representatives of the three pilot Schools. They actively contributed not only conceptually to the leading topic, but with a hands-on mentality by, amongst others, designing the gather.town environment and identifying potential panelists.
So welcome new students! We wish you all the best for your time at the Max Planck Schools and for finding your very own passion for science!
Recordings of the Max Planck Schools Day 2021
Max Planck Schools Day 2021 (1/7) - Welcome Address, Prof. Dr. Martin Stratmann
Max Planck Schools Day 2021 (2/7) - Lecture "My Passion for Science", Prof. Dr. Christine Silberhorn
Broadcasted live from Paderborn University, 13.10.2021
Max Planck Schools Day 2021 (3/7) - Input Lecture, Prof. Dr. Gülay Çağlar, and subsequent Panel Discussion
Live recorded at Harnack Haus, Berlin 13.10.2021