Excellence funding for outstanding researcher

Biophysicist Edda Schulz included in the Lise Meitner Excellence program

June 15, 2020

Edda Schulz from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics (MPIMG) in Berlin is one of nine winners of this year's Lise Meitner Excellence Program of the Max Planck Society. The program is aimed at outstanding female researchers who are among the exceptional talents in their field. A particular feature of the program is the invitation of the Lise Meitner group leader to participate in an internal tenure track process after five years. After a positive evaluation, the candidate will head a permanent research group at a Max Planck Institute.

Edda Schulz of  the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics (MPIMG) in Berlin is a winner of the Lise Meitner Excellence Program of the Max Planck Society in 2020.

Edda Schulz is interested in the interaction between genes during the development and differentiation of stem cells. Complex interconnected control mechanisms ensure that each cell develops “correctly”. The scientist and her team use quantitative methods in their research, which are then interpreted with the help of mathematical models.

Four questions for Edda Schulz

Two-dimensional representation of cells that were characterized using single sequencing

What inspires you about your research?
The big question that drives me is how the various cell types in our body can fulfill such a variety of different functions although they are all instructed by the same DNA sequence. In mammals, complex regulatory mechanisms ensure that only a defined fraction of the genome is active in each cell type. In our research, we aim at deciphering the principles used to precisely tune gene activity in response to quantitative signals.

What will be your main focus in your work at the MPI?
In order to uncover the principles used by the cell to precisely control gene activity, we will study how female cells in mammals switch off one of their X chromosomes in a process called X chromosome inactivation.

How would you describe the situation of women in science – in your field and in general?
In epigenetics and developmental biology many leading scientists who have made important contributions are women, but most of them work in the US, France or the UK. In Germany, leadership positions in science are still strongly dominated by men, which results in a lack of female role models.

For you personally, what was the most important scientific finding of the past five years?
The discovery of CRISPR systems and their adaptation as molecular tools have revolutionized the ways we can interrogate the genome.

The opportunity for a top position

After completing her doctorate as a biophysicist at the German Rheumatism Research Centre Berlin (DRFZ) and at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Edda Schulz won one of the prestigious long-term fellowships of the Human Frontiers Science Program in 2010 and joined Edith Heard's group at the Institut Curie in Paris as a postdoctoral fellow. In 2014, she established a Max Planck Research Group at the MPIMG, where she is currently heading a team of ten researchers. Schulz intends to use the Lise Meitner grant to continue her research at the institute in Berlin for another five years.

The Lise Meitner Excellence Programme offers successful candidates their own equipment and personnel resources to finance their research group for an initial period of five years. In addition, they receive an offer to participate in a tenure-track process: Provided that the work is positively evaluated by a tenure commission towards the end of the term, this will then result in a permanent W2 position with group leadership at an Max Planck Institute.

With the Lise Meitner Excellence Program, the Max Planck Society aims to identify and promote female talent in a structured and targeted manner. Furthermore, it is an important goal of the program to identify female candidates who are suitable as future directors of a Max Planck Institute. The Program is one of the measures the Max Planck Society is taking to promote exceptional female talent in view of numerous retirements in the coming years and to initiate a cultural change within the Max Planck Society.

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