Edith Heard is inaugurated as EMBL Director General
On 17 October, representatives from the EMBL member states, EMBL faculty, and other distinguished guests gathered for the inauguration of EMBL Director General Edith Heard. The inauguration symposium, ‘EMBL: A vision for European Life Sciences’, was held in the historic Alte Aula at Heidelberg University. Speakers included ministerial representatives from all countries that host EMBL sites, as well as from Lithuania – the most recent member state to join EMBL.
Among the speakers at the event was geneticist and Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse, who reflected on the importance of international collaboration in European science. “We have the culture, the freedom, the values, and the resources to succeed in science,” he said. “Our civilisation will be enriched and applications of our science will improve the lot of humankind and of our planet. But to achieve this we need to have a European science which can influence the world, and that requires a scientific Europe without boundaries.”
Sir Paul Nurse has known Edith since they first worked together more than 30 years ago. “She is a great person to lead EMBL, which I am sure will go from strength to strength under her leadership. She is a highly esteemed scientist still very active in her research, who is international in her outlook, is a skilled politician, and an accomplished diplomat,” he said. “What more could you want?”
Since taking on the role of Director General at the beginning of January, Edith has spent a great deal of time engaging with representatives from EMBL member states, colleagues, and collaborators to understand how EMBL can advance its missions of inspiring and enabling excellent science. In September, she spoke at the first European Research and Innovation Days, where she highlighted EMBL’s successes under the Horizon 2020 framework, the importance of research infrastructures, and the need to strengthen the links between fundamental research and global challenges – such as antibiotic resistance and climate change – in the next framework, Horizon Europe.
During the stopovers of the Tara schooner as part of the Tara Ocean Foundation’s Mission Microplastics this summer, Edith joined EMBL scientists who organised public outreach activities, stakeholder receptions, alumni events, press conferences, and scientific conferences to discuss the links between the study of the oceans and life on Earth.
Speaking at the inauguration symposium, Edith described the importance of EMBL’s network of collaborators and its alumni community, who have spread the EMBL model to many institutions across Europe and around the world. “I have often described coming to EMBL as coming home,” she said, “because I had already heard so much about EMBL from some of EMBL’s greatest advocates: its alumni.”
As Edith continues to engage in discussions with EMBL staff and alumni, representatives from the EMBL member states, and other collaborators, ideas will be born that will shape the future of EMBL and of molecular biology in Europe. With Edith as Director General, there is a real energy within EMBL and its member states to build on EMBL’s existing expertise and find ways to tackle critical scientific challenges of global importance.