Inspired by Biology

Exploring Nature's Toolbox

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

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.


Prof. Dr. Jason Chin

The EMBO Keynote Lecture

Prof. Dr. Jason Chin

MRC-LMB, Cambridge, UK

Jason Chin is a Head of the Centre for Chemical and Synthetic Biology at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology (MRC-LMB). A pioneer in the field of reprogramming the genetic code in vivo, he studies protein interactions and the role of post-translational modifications by incorporating unnatural amino acids into living systems. He was awarded the European Molecular Biology Organization’s (EMBO) Gold Medal and elected to EMBO membership in 2010.

Programmeprint Programme

Day 1, Thursday, October 23rd

08:00-09:00 Registration
09:00-09:25 Symposium Opening & Welcome by Helke Hillebrand (Dean of Graduate Studies). Introduction of Day 1
09:25-10:10 Keynote Lecture: Aránzazu del Campo
Mimicking the dynamic nature of the extracellular matrix
10:10-10:40 Coffee Break
10:40-11:25 Keynote Lecture: Martin Fussenegger
Prosthetic networks – synthetic biology-inspired treatment strategies for metabolic disorders
11:25-11:45 Short Talk 1: Arjan van Zeijl
Parasponia; the key to solving the nitrogen problem
11:45-12:50 Poster Session 1 (top of Helix A)
12:50-14:00 Lunch in the EMBL Canteen
14:00-14:45 The EMBO Lecture: Jason Chin
Reprogramming the genetic code
14:45-15:05 Short Talk 2: Olivier Box
Directed evolution of a dimeric enzyme expressed from a chromosomal gene
15:05-15:30 Coffee Break
15:30-15:50 Short Talk 3: Susanne Heider
Developing a virus interaction sensor platform
15:50-16:35 Keynote Lecture: Lesley Chow
Exploring and engineering the cell-material interface
16:35-16:55 Short Talk 4: Ana Silva
The duality of the fetal and adult-derived scaffolds as 3D in vitro systems for cardiac cells culture
16:55-17:20 Coffee Break
17:20-18:10 Blackboard Sessions
18:10-18:50 Panel Discussion
19:00 Dinner in the EMBL Canteen
Evening Social Evening in Downtown Heidelberg (Palmbräugasse)

Day 2, Friday, October 24th

09:00-09:10 Introduction of Day 2
09:10-09:55 Keynote Lecture: Germán Rivas Caballero
The initial events of bacterial division: a biochemical view
09:55-10:15 Short Talk 5: Antoine Decrulle
Control of the asymmetric segregation of proteins in E. coli thanks to self-assembling peptides
10:15-10:40 Coffee Break
10:40-11:25 Keynote Lecture: Claire Ainsworth
Communicating science to non-specialists
11:25-11:45 Short Talk 6: Zhee Sheen Wong
Oxidative stress correlates with Wolbachia-mediated antiviral protection in natural Wolbachia-Drosophila associations
11:45-12:30 Poster Session 2 (top of Helix A)
12:30-13:30 Lunch in the EMBL Canteen
13:30-14:30 Workshops
14:30-15:15 Keynote Lecture: Kristala Prather
Microbial synthesis of glucaric acid:  a case study for the design, assembly and improvement of a biosynthetic pathway for value-added products
15:15-15:35 Short Talk 7: Lara Bereza-Malcolm
Development of microbial biosensors for the detection of heavy metals
15:35-16:00 Coffee Break
16:00-16:45 Schering Session: Mark Bedau
Creating minimal chemical life in the laboratory: scientific challenges, engineering solutions, and social consequences
16:45-17:05 Short Talk 8: Giovanni Ganendra
Formate oxidation-driven calcium carbonate precipitation by Methylocystis parvus OBBP for a concomitant building material surface protection and atmospheric methane removal
17:05-17:30 Coffee Break
17:30-18:20 Blackboard Sessions
18:20-19:00 Panel Discussion
19:00 Dinner in the EMBL Canteen

Day 3, Saturday, October 25th

10:00-10:10 Introduction of Day 3
10:10- 10:55 Keynote Lecture: Ido Bachelet
Animal and mechanical mimicry in DNA origami robots
10:55-11:15 Short Talk 9: Rufika Shari Abidin
Insert design and high-throughput screening to improve recovery of virus-like particle subunits for cytotoxic T cell epitope-based influenza vaccines
11:15-11:40 Coffee Break
11:40-12:25 Keynote Lecture: Martin Jinek
RNA-guided DNA cleavage: mechanistic insights and genome engineering applications
12:25-12:45 Short Talk 10: Patricia Renck Nunes
Highly efficient establishment of conditional knockout cell lines by CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome engineering
12:45-14:00 Lunch in the EMBL Canteen
14:00-14:45 Keynote Lecture: Roman Jerala
Modular design of new protein folds
14:45-15:05 Short Talk 11: Julia Wessel
Directed evolution in droplets: towards the acellular birth of a beta-lactamase
15:05-15:30 Coffee Break
15:30-16:15 Schering Session: Jane Calvert
Biology in society: interdisciplinary, ownership and aesthetics
16:15-16:35 Short Talk 12: Nilisha Fernando
The therapeutic potential of the complement inhibitor VCP in a model of retinal degeneration
16:35-17:00 Coffee Break
17:00-17:50 Blackboard Sessions
17:50-18:30 Panel Discussion
18:30-19:00 Concluding Remarks
19:00 Dinner in the EMBL Canteen
Evening Symposium Party

Travel and AccommodationPrint Travel and Accomodation

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

During the Symposium

We will provide buses for the Symposium participants on each day of the Symposium. Location of the stops are shown on this map

  • bus provided by EMBL
  • bus 39 by RNV (2.40 €)
  • moonliner 1 by RNV (2.40 €)

Thursday, October 23rd

From Heidelberg to EMBL

Neckar­münz­platz Bismarck­platz Crowne Plaza ISG Hotel EMBL
07:30 07:50 08:00
07:50 08:06
08:10 08:26
08:30 08:46
23:00 23:10 23:25
00:38 01:04

From EMBL to Heidelberg

EMBLISG HotelCrowne PlazaBismarck­platzNeckar­münz­platz
18:41 18:58
19:11 19:28
20:00 20:10* 20:50
20:30 20:45 20:55
20:47 21:04

*10 minute stop at Hotel ISG

Friday, October 24th

From Heidelberg to EMBL

Bismarck­platzCrowne PlazaISG HotelEMBL
07:50 08:06
08:10 08:26
08:00 08:20 08:30
08:30 08:46

From EMBL to Heidelberg

EMBLISG HotelCrowne PlazaBismarck­platz
18:41 18:58
19:11 19:28
20:00 20:10 20:30
20:30 20:40 21:00
20:47 21:04

Saturday, October 25th

From Heidelberg to EMBL

Crowne PlazaISG HotelEMBL
09:00 09:20 09:30

From EMBL to Heidelberg

EMBLISG HotelCrowne Plaza
20:30 20:40 21:00
23:30 23:40 24:00
02:00 02:10 02:30

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 closed.

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 Jackson ImmunoReasearch Europe Life Science Network Eppendorf

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

facebook twitter linkedin
    |      ,..-^^^|^^^-..,  ' |   | '  |
 '      | /___/___|___\___\    |    |   
    '       /\    |/\            |      
    |       || ___|||      | . '     | '
 |         .' '~-~| '.   |   |    |     
 ' |   ___/(o)(. .|(o)\___     '  |     
       ===        |    ===   |   '  |' '
 ' |    /       - $-._  \      |   |    
|      /  .-------J\  `--\  |  |    ' | 
      / ,'/\  /\  /\\     )  '   ' |    
|    / //\  /\  /\  /`-.. )  |  |       
 |  ( ||                 ||           | 
    ( ||                 || |     |'    
     W||                 ||          '  
      ||                 ||   '  |  .   
      :'.               .';            |
 |'    '.',____   ____,'.'    |      .  
   |     ',____>-<____,'  |    ||   |   
          ^^^       ^^^