Two weeks at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg – Esther Molina’s experience

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Esther Molina is a PhD student at the Institute for Integrative Systems Biology (I2SysBio, Spain), and with the BioRoboost exchange programme she spent two weeks at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology. Here is what the experience was like for her:

“When I first arrived at Marburg I was amazed by the enchanted environment of the city. Surrounded by hills, Marburg is a wonderful place to live that hides a beautiful history related to the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales and a top scientific research centre.

The Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology is on the top on one of these hills, in the campus of the Phillipps-Universität, and is organized in four different departments that work in synthetic metabolism, ecophysiology, interactions between organisms and synthetic microbiology. My host laboratory was Tobias Erb’s lab, and I was very lucky to spend there those days learning about their projects and experiencing both the scientific and the social life with them.


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Apart from the scientific side, the thing that surprised me the most was the organization and the development of a PhD defence. It was radically different from what we do in Spain and far funnier! Basically, most of the people in the lab get involved in the preparation of games in which the new-born PhD is at the fore. Then, if he or she succeeds, they are awarded with a hat decorated with all the things that describe not only their work but also their most characteristic traits. I found it really meaningful that all the colleagues got involved in such a personal and nice present. In Spain everything is much more formal, at least inside the institute!

The experience of being in another lab for a short period of time was very intense and productive in a different way. Of course, it was not possible to develop a lot of experiments, but that was not the purpose and I could compare not only protocols and ways of behaving, but also to discuss about alternatives possibilities of my PhD project.”

Don’t forget the second round of the exchange programme is open! Send your applications before February 15th!


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