24th EMBL PhD Symposium

7-9th December, 2022

EMBL, Heidelberg and Virtual

The Spectra of Life

Dimensional breadth in biological research

Biological research can be visualised as happening across scales; from single molecules to planetary ecosystems, from single-celled organisms to highly specialised, multicellular systems, from extremely quick enzyme catalysis to the slow, steady march of evolution, and from temperate environments to the extreme to the inhospitable lava vents at the bottom of our oceans and even the cold, silent void of space. To truly understand biological phenomena, it is essential to understand the interactions and coordination between the separate but inextricably interlinked spatial, temporal, systematic, and environmental contexts within which the phenomena occur. To achieve this, the cooperation between experts from across different disciplines is imperative. We are committed to organising a Symposium which will assemble and unite a diverse array of scientists. We hope to trigger many fruitful discussions and exciting collaborations across disciplines to progress towards the lofty goal of advancing a holistic perspective on investigating biological systems.

The programme will be divided into four sessions, each catering to one specific biological scale.

From hostile desert conditions to ice cold waters - life can go to extreme measures to survive. How resilient are ecosystems? While we can pick and choose the environment in the lab, this only begins to explore the landscape of possible habitats that nature thrives in.

The genetic code forms the basis of all the life we know. While the individual building blocks might seem simple to understand, putting them together at a large scale leads to a level of complexity that we are only starting to comprehend. With all interesting patterns of behavior emergent from the many routes of evolution and degrees of genetic variation, life shows complexity at every scale.

Whether investigating quantum effects in biology or impact of unicellular organisms on whole ecosystems, how we describe living systems can scale from particles to biomes. Every layer of magnitude reveals new insights. Our understanding at all sizes matters.

Biological processes take place from fast molecular reactions to slow evolutionary steps. From the formation of biomolecular condensates, transgenerational epigenetics, to the fitness landscapes over evolution – every time scale, is of the essence.


Change is the only constant. This schedule too, is under constant updation.

 Download the Programme! 

 Download the Poster! 



09:00 - 11:30 Registration at ATC and coffee
11:30 - 11:45 Introduction to Symposium Program by Organising Committee

Session 1: Extremes

11:45 - 12:30 Ikram Blilou
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia
Unlocking mysteries of the hidden half.
12:30 - 13:30 Lunch
13:30 - 14:15 EMBO Women in Science: Elizabeth Murchison
University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Horizontal gene transfer in transmissible cancers.
14:15 - 15:00 Buzz Baum
MRC LMB, United Kingdom
The evolution of cell division: from archaea to eukaryotes
15:00 - 15:30 Coffee break & Sponsor exhibitions
15:30 - 16:00 Welcome Address: Edith Heard
Director general, EMBL, Germany

Session 2: Time

16:00 - 16:45 EMBO Young investigator Lecture: Jan Philipp Junker
MDC, Germany
Including temporal information in single-cell transcriptomics to identify mechanisms of heart regeneration.
16:45 - 17:30 Fyodor Kondrashov
Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Japan
Experimental assays of GFP-based studies of the fitness landscapes
17:30 - 19:00 Poster session 1
19:00 - 20:30 Dinner
20:30 - 22:00 Networking event
22:00 End of the day - Last bus



Session 2: Time

09:00 - 09:45 Gerhard Hummer
MPI for Biophysics, Germany
Molecular simulations in the era of AI and exascale computing.
09:45 - 10:30 Andrea Cipriano
Stanford University, USA
Going back in time: Partial reprogramming and the epigenetic of aging and rejuvenation.

Session 3: Complexity

10:30 - 11:15 EMBO Young investigator Lecture:
Prisca Liberali

Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Switzerland
Design principles of tissue organisation: symmetry breaking and self-organization in intestinal organoids.
11:15 - 11:45 Coffee break & Sponsor exhibitions
11:45 - 12:30 Sandra Smit
Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands
Analayzing genetic variation using rich pangenome graphs.
12:30 - 13:15 Luxendo - Light Sheet Microscopy /
Euro Bio-Imaging - Research infrastructure landscape, services and FAIR data /
EMBL tour
13:15 - 14:15 Lunch
14:15 - 15:00 Denis Walsh
University of Toronto, Canada
The Agential Perspective: Countermapping the Modern Synthesis.
15:00 - 15:45 The EMBO Keynote Lecture: Tobias Erb
MPI for terrestrial microbiology, Germany
Bringing inorganic carbon to life: From new-to-nature carboxylases to artificial chloroplasts.
15:45 - 16:15 Coffee break & Sponsor exhibitions
16:15 - 17:00 Jean Fan
Johns Hopkins University, USA
Multi-scale Analysis of Spatially Resolved Transcriptomics Data.
17:00 - 17:45 Participant talks
17:45 - 19:15 Poster session 2
19:15 - 20:45 Dinner
20:45 - 21:30 Networking event
21:30 - 24:00 PhD Symposium ‘Party’ - TBD



Session 4: Size

09:00 - 09:45 EMBO Young investigator Lecture:
Tanmay Bharat

MRC LMB,United Kingdom
Molecular Logic of Prokaryotic Surface Layer Structures.
09:45 - 10:30 Clarice D Aiello
University of California, USA
From nanotech to living sensors: unraveling the spin physics of biosensing at the nanoscale.
10:30 - 11:00 Coffee break & Sponsor exhibitions
11:00 - 11:45 EMBO Young investigator Lecture:
Paul Guichard

Universite de Geneve, Switzerland
Combining cryo-microscopy and expansion microscopy to reveal the molecular architecture of the centriole.
11:45 - 12:45 Panel discussion :
Inclusion and diversity in Science
12:45 - 13:15 Awards and closing remarks
13:15 - 14:15 Lunch and departures


  • Andrea Cipriano
    Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine
  • Buzz Baum
    MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
  • Clarice D. Aiello
    UCLA Samueli School of Engineering
  • Denis Walsh
    University of Toronto
  • Edoardo Calizza
    Sapienza University, Rome
  • Elizabeth Murchison
    University of Cambridge
  • Fyodor Kondrashov
    Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology
  • Gerhard Hummer
    Max Planck Institute of Biophysics
  • Ikram Blilou
    King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
  • Jan Philipp Junker
    Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine
  • Jean Fan
    Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University
  • Paul Guichard
    Université de Genève
  • Prisca Liberali
    Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research
  • Sandra Smit
    Wageningen University
  • Tanmay Bharat
  • Tobias Erb
    Max-Plank Institute for terrestrial microbiology

Frequently Asked Questions

The EMBL PhD Symposium is organized by EMBL PhD students to serve as a gathering that connects young researchers and high-profile scientists alike. This year, our Symposium centers on the theme “The Spectra of Life: Dimensional Breadth in Biological Research.”

The symposium is scheduled to take place from the 7th to the 9th of December 2022.

The symposium will be at EMBL Heidelberg, and the address is: Meyerhofstraße 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany. If however, one cannot attend in person, virtual participation is also possible!

Accomodation is not included in the registration fee. One can however check out EMBL recommended hotels here

While the symposium is mainly aimed toward PhD students, everyone is invited to attend!

Please feel free to contact info.phdsymposium@embl.de

Yes! All registrants intending to attend the symposium in person are welcome to submit their abstracts. They can indicate if they want to give a talk or a poster presentation. The flash talks will be selected by the organizing committee after the submission deadline.

Only registered applicants can submit abstracts. You can find the link for abstract submission in the confirmation email.

While we encourage abstract submissions, we don’t require abstracts to participate in the symposium.

The deadline for abstract submission is 14th September, 2022.
The deadline for registration is 26th October, 2022.

The deadline for registration for online attendance is 22nd November, 2022.

Please find additional information including FAQs, terms and conditions, COVID-19 safety policy, finding accommodation in Heidelberg and travelling to EMBL on the Information for Participants page



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