Inspired by Biology

Exploring Nature's Toolbox

16th EMBL PhD Symposium
23rd-25th October 2014

Registration is now open!

About the Symposium

While scientific research continues to enable innovations in technology, it also raises questions and issues that we do not yet have the tools to address. However, similar challenges have often been faced and overcome in nature.

The 16th EMBL PhD symposium, entitled "Inspired by Biology - Exploring Nature's Toolbox", will delve into the creative and multidisciplinary uses of existing biological mechanisms to solve problems in basic and applied sciences. The conference will cover a range of fields from DNA nanorobots and xenonucleic acids through to tissue engineering and biomaterials.

The EMBL PhD symposium is organized every year by first-year PhD students of all EMBL outstations. Participants from all over the world gather in Heidelberg, Germany, for a three-day event with talks from both top-level scientists and PhD students themselves. Additionally, participants have the opportunity to take part in informal blackboard sessions given by the keynote speakers, offering an exciting means to discuss the topics directly with leading experts.

In a time when the value of basic research is being questioned, the 2014 symposium hopes to demonstrate the diverse ways in which biological knowledge can be applied to solve problems of public, academic and industrial interest.


Jason Chin Jason Chin Ido Bachelet Ido Bachelet Martin Fussenegger Martin Fussenegger Molly Stevens Molly Stevens Aránzazu del Campo Aránzazu del Campo Roman Jerala Roman Jerala Martin Jinek Martin Jinek Jane Calvert Jane Calvert Claire Ainsworth Claire Ainsworth Kristala Prather Kristala Prather Germán Rivas Caballero Germán Rivas Caballero Mark Bedau Mark Bedau


Day 1: When biology inspires medicine

Recent developments in biological techniques that have opened new prospects in various fields of modern medicine will be covered on Day 1.

Day 2: Exploiting Nature’s architecture

When it comes to research and development, evolution has a multi-million year head start over mankind. Day 2’s topics will address how scientists are taking advantage of the fascinating properties and components that natural systems have developed over the ages.

Day 3: Pushing the limits of life

Day 3 will offer an overview of currently available techniques that allow radical modifications of living organisms and their genomes. The day will conclude with a Science and Society session.

The EMBL PhD Symposium is an event organized by students, for students.

In addition to lectures given by leading scientists, the programme will feature 12 short talks given by student participants, poster sessions and a workshop on scientific communication. Time will be dedicated every day to informal discussions with the speakers in the form of "Blackboard Sessions" and a panel discussion with questions from the audience. The conference will be concluded by a Science & Society session dealing with the societal aspects of the exciting works presented.

Participants will also enjoy social events such as an evening in the Heidelberg old town, and a party on Saturday night!

Travel and Accommodation

How to get to Heidelberg

Heidelberg is easily reached by train, car or plane from any country in the world. The EMBL campus is located in Heidelberg's neighbourhood area of Boxberg which is approximately 10 minutes by car from Heidelberg's city centre.

Reaching us by train, plane, car

Travel Documents and Visas

Prior to travelling to Germany, some applicants from certain countries may have to acquire special travel documents, such as a visa. Applicants are strongly encouraged to check with the local German Authorities (Embassies or Consulates) about the need of special travelling documents. Since the process may be time consuming, applicants are advised to make such arrangements as soon as possible. Failure to obtain a visa after the deadline for participation in the conference will not result in a refund. Applicants are responsible for providing the right documentation needed for their entry into Germany. However, upon request, the Organizing Committee can issue a formal letter of acceptance to the symposium for the purposes of obtaining a visa. Please be aware that no visa letters will be issued before payment of the registration fee. The organizing committee can not be held responsible in the case of a refusal by German authorities to enter German territory.


The registration fees do not include accommodation and it has to be personally arranged. However, if you are happy to share a double room with a fellow participant, rooms have been pre-booked at the EMBL/ISG hotel near EMBL. If you would like a room there, please contact the hotel and refer to the PhD Symposium when booking.
Please note that a shuttle bus will run between EMBL, the ISG Hotel and downtown Heidelberg (Bismarckplatz) during the conference.


Registration is now open!

Early Bird Late Registration
Open until 30th July 31st July - 11th September
Academia fee €100 €120
Industry fee €200 €200

In order to register, please choose the appropriate link from the list below. You will be redirected to the EMBL Registration System.

Abstract submission deadline: 30th of July

A confirmation email will be sent to registrants once the registration is received. If you are interested in giving a talk or presenting a poster, please submit a short abstract (up to 2000 characters) describing what you will present. The submission link will be provided by email after registration. The registration fee will be waived for those who are accepted as speakers.

We highly recommend abstracts to be submitted as early as possible, as spaces for short talks and posters are limited.

Registration includes all meals and coffee breaks, as well as transportation to the venue from the ISG Hotel.

Abstract submission

Please note:

  • The 2,000-character limit refers to manually typed text (including spaces).
  • Please enter your co-authors correctly via the system by clicking the "add co-author" link. DO NOT copy-paste them into the body of the abstract text, as they will not be indexed in the abstract book.
  • Copy-paste text may include hidden formatting that exceeds the character limit. We recommend either:
    • saving as 'text only' in your editor or e-mail programme, OR
    • copy-pasting it into Notepad and then onto the website.
    • Some web browsers do not accept abstracts close to the 2,000-character count.
  • If you have special symbols in your text, please ensure you are using Unicode characters, otherwise these will not be recognised.

For more details about abstract submission, oral presentations and poster sessions please refer to the FAQ page.

Travel Grants

All participants are eligible to apply for a travel grant. Further information will be provided in the confirmation email after registering.

EMBL Australia participants please apply for travel grants through EMBL Australia.


Registrants who require a Visa to enter Germany should complete registration, including payment of the registration fee. No Visa will be provided before payment has been processed. Once this is completed, contact us for an invitation letter. Also please take into account that a Visa letter might require some time until issued. For more information, please check FAQs and Accommodation & Travel.


EMBL EMBO ZYMO research Promega The Company of Biologists New England Biolabs Schering Stiftung ScienceOpen

Also kindly supported by EMBL CPP's founder partners

Leica Olypus

Also kindly supported by EMBL CPP's corporate partners

Becton Dickinson GE Healthcare gsk illumina

Also kindly supported by EMBL CPP's associate partners

eppendorf life technologies Merck Serono Nikon Sanofi ThermoFisher

Sponsorship Information

Our 16th EMBL PhD symposium will provide an invaluable networking environment for your company to enhance the profile amongst the molecular biosciences research community, especially towards the young generation. The symposium will offer prime opportunities for your company to promote your new products, latest technology, and services. If you are interested in sponsoring our symposium and would like to receive further information, please download our sponsorship brochure, or direct your enquires to us.


Do you have any questions? You might be able to find your answer in our FAQs. Or just contact us:
PhD Symposium 2014
Secretary Christopher Buccitelli

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