A Journey through the MtL Seminar at Castle Ringberg

December 13, 2023

What is more enchanting than snow covered mountains and Christmas in the air against a backdrop of a majestic castle? Well if you ask the scientists and students at MtL, they would say an MtL seminar in this setting will seal the deal! This week-long event (Dec 11-15th) transformed the historical castle into a melting pot of futuristic ideas, discussions, and camaraderie, creating an unforgettable experience for all participants.

MtL Faculty shared the stage with peripatetic world-renowned scientists

The crisp mornings at Castle Ringberg began with a series of enlightening talks by distinguished fellows and invited speakers. MtL chair Joachim Spatz set the stage on Monday evening, offering a warm welcome and a glimpse into his recent work.

A group of students stand in front of a whiteboard. In the foreground you can see the inscription "Matter to Life 2023" on the back of the hoodie of a student
A group of students brainstorm on a laptop during an afternoon session on toy projects
Another group discusses their selected toy project
MtL student Jan Jedryszek asks two faculty members, Peter Comba and Stefan Klumpp, and alumnus Philipp Baur questions about their careers during an afternoon session
Three students discuss their toy project

The week featured an eclectic mix of talks that spanned the interdisciplinary landscape. On Tuesday, Benjamin Geiger from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel presented his work on how adhesion systems act as environmental sensors while Jinwoo Cheon from the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) at the Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea gave a talk about “Designer Nanoparticles for Biological Targets”. MtL Fellow Dieter Braun showed his fascinating work on “Recreating Early Molecular Life in Early Rock Environments”. The last talk on that day was held by Peer Fischer from MPI for Medical Research in Heidelberg who gave his insights about “Microswimmers, Enzymes and Cells in Motion”. 

On Wednesday, newly appointed MtL Fellow Thorsten Moos delved into the ethical aspects of science, offering insights into the responsibilities that come with scientific pursuits. Our Fellow Reinhard Lipowsky’s talk on the morphology of the Endoplasmic Reticulum provided a deeper understanding of cellular structures. MtL Fellow Philippe Bastiaens presented an overview of EGFR pathway, offering a comprehensive look at past and current work in the field. The seminar concluded on Thursday with talks by Medhavi Vishwakarma from the Department of Bioengineering at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc, India), Jae-Hyun Lee and Minsuk Kwak (both from IBS, South Korea) that covered topics such as the intricacies of epithelial tissues, nanoscale devices for biological control and understanding and re-engineering of mechanical cell signaling with nanotechnology, respectively.

Jae-Hyun Lee from ISB in South Korea is presenting his research
MtL Fellow Thorsten Moos is standing at the lectern, giving a lecture
Faculty member Reinhard Lipowsky looks up at his slides during his talk
Medhavi Vishwakarma during her guest lecture
Fellow Philippe Bastiaens stands at the lectern and looks into the audience

This Ringberg seminar was made all the more special by the invited speakers and experts from all over the world including Peer Fischer (IMSEAM, Heidelberg, Germany) and Medhavi Vishwakarma (IISc, Bangalore, India) and Benjamin Geiger (Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, Israel). The contingency from IBS, South Korea with Prof. Minsuk Kwak and Jae-Hyun Lee also included PhD students and Post-docs from the institute. The diversity of thoughts and ideas indeed elevated our scientific discussions to new heights.

Discussions, socratic debates and ideas galore

Morning scientific talks were complemented by student organized afternoon sessions that covered a broad spectrum of themes. Discussions ranged from brainstorming potential project ideas for interdisciplinary grants to exploring different methods such as the integration of AI in scientific endeavors. The collaborative atmosphere fostered by these sessions epitomized the spirit of the MtL community.

Two female participants sit at a wooden table and play a board game
A selection of board games lies on a wooden table
A group of participant is sitting around a wodden table and setting up a board game

As the sun set over the snow-covered landscape, Castle Ringberg came alive with networking events that blended science with socializing. Under the guidance of Anne Pawsey, our former scientific coordinator and current secretary general at the European Physical Society, attendees delved into the physics of Gin, conducting experiments and discovering the influence of ice and the fluorescent properties of tonic water. The castle's halls echoed with laughter from a lively board game night, providing an opportunity for participants to unwind, connect, and revel in the joy of shared experiences.

Beyond the seminar's scientific focus, participants had the chance to learn more about the history of the castle through a guided tour. Exploring the intricate architectural details and uncovering the secret stories hidden within the castle's walls added a cultural layer to the week's proceedings.

Throughout the seminar, participants were treated to a culinary journey through German and Bavarian delights. The hearty meals served not only as nourishment for the body but also as a backdrop for informal discussions and forging connections beyond the formalities of scientific exchange.

As the MtL Seminar at Castle Ringberg drew to a close, it left in its wake a sense of accomplishment, bonhomie, and the lingering magic of winter. Most importantly, our interactions with our invited guests had sowed the seeds for potential future scientific collaborations. The memories created within the historic walls of the castle will undoubtedly resonate with participants, serving as a source of inspiration and connection. Carrying forth with them the spirit of scientific exploration and partnerships, participants bid farewell to Castle Ringberg.

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