Meet EMBL's new Academic Coordinator and Dean of Graduate Studies, Monika Lachner
What does your role involve?
My team coordinates the EMBL International PhD Programme and the Postdoctoral Programme as well as driving other internal training initiatives at EMBL. We work very closely with EMBL group leaders and other key stakeholders in the recruitment and training of students and postdoctoral fellows. There are 230 PhD students and 280 postdocs at EMBL. We support them during their entire time at EMBL and are a first point of contact for them. I enjoy providing a platform for them to develop in their careers, and this is something that is inherent to the training programmes at EMBL. It is a very rewarding experience watching scientists grow and mature over time. I am very happy to be part of that.
How does it feel being at EMBL?
Before joining EMBL, I had heard a lot about the ‘EMBL spirit’ and the great working atmosphere and I am delighted to find that everything I had heard on the grapevine about EMBL is true. EMBL is an international place with a very open and collaborative atmosphere – you can feel is as soon as you walk through the door. Of course being part of the fantastic science done here is also great.
What would you like to achieve during your time here?
My short-term goal is to get settled and to gather a good overview of our current activities and procedures. We want to maintain the excellent level of our PhD and Postdoctoral programmes and as a next step develop ideas to enhance them even further. One important aspect will be to intensify our efforts in the area of individual mentoring and career development support for all fellows.
Who or what inspires you?
One of my greatest inspirations is my grandfather. When I was little he read to me every book that he could get his hands on. Having a very limited school education himself he taught me the importance of curiosity and life-long learning to gain knowledge. Discovering new things and meeting new people is what inspires me most today.
Name a tool you can’t do without
I can’t do without my coffee card! However, what I really depend on is my large notebook, as well as my calendar to manage my meetings.
Meeting people with different backgrounds from all over the world – this is the beauty of EMBL and what makes it a special place
How do you feel about needing to work across several sites?
I am really excited about working for a multi-site organisation like EMBL – I think it is a great concept. I am based in Heidelberg, but it is very important to me to build up good relationships with people at the other sites. As a start, I will visit all EMBL sites in the coming months. Having people with so many different backgrounds from all over the world is the beauty of EMBL and what makes it a special place. You could not ask for a more interesting work environment.
What is the best advice you’ve received (or wished you had received) in your career?
Over the years I have been very fortunate to have received a lot of good career advice from my peers and mentors. Especially during more difficult stretches my support network at work and at home has been very important. Living by the words: ‘believe in your abilities. You can reach anything you set your mind on’, has helped me to focus and to go for my goals.
How did you get into science?
When my biology teacher at high school introduced my class to cell division I was fascinated and decided that I would like to understand more about how life works at the molecular level. My research career took me from Regensburg, to Vienna and New York, before I returned to Europe and moved into science management at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, where I went on to coordinate the institute’s international PhD programme.
Do you have any tips or advice you give to students?
There is one thing they should always keep in mind: It is never too early to think about your career, but it is also never too late. Consider your strengths, figure out what you are good at and what you enjoy doing. It is also very important to take risks and take your chances. You cannot plan everything in your career, sometimes there is just a door that suddenly opens and an unexpected opportunity presents itself – go with it!
To study the effect of commonly used drugs on bacterial envelopes, EMBL scientists applied a biochemical assay using a colour reaction. The deeper the red, the stronger the disruptive effect of the drug.