Summer schools as meeting points

Meeting up for summer school

Using the summer to explore science: Max Planck Institutes from Hamburg to Munich offer courses specifically for external participants and will reach about 900 young scientists from master’s students to postdocs this year.

The concept originating from the USA where universities run summer schools during the period when there are no lectures has also been adopted by the Max Planck Institutes. While they are not universities, these courses allow them to open themselves up to young academics and provide an insight into research. Often organized through International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS) to provide courses for doctoral students and in conjunction with cooperation partners, over 15 such specialized courses will be offered this summer.

Wide range of courses

The courses vary from Institute to Institute in terms of both their duration and content. The group size may also differ depending on the topic, whereby participants usually undergo a selection procedure. This is the procedure at the “Summer Institute on Bounded Rationality: predictions under uncertainty” at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin where around 100 applications were received for 36 places. Participants in the interdisciplinary course will explore the decision-making and action principle of “limited reality”, as well as how humans make predictions under uncertainty. “We are taking a broad perspective on research on decision-making and therefore incorporate related disciplines, such as psychology, economics, biology, statistics and philosophy,” explained Marcus Buckmann, who is part of the organizational team. Seminars, lectures, podium discussions, workshops and poster sessions will be held over the course of a week. “This will enable and encourage participants to learn and develop new ideas while challenging the widespread assumption that complicated problems always necessitate complex solutions.”

At the Summer School 2015, Jonas Peters was still at the MPI for Intelligent Systems; today he is Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen. Zoom Image
At the Summer School 2015, Jonas Peters was still at the MPI for Intelligent Systems; today he is Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen.

The “Machine Learning Summer School” will be the guest of the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen for the fifth time this year. Max Planck Director Bernhard Schölkopf is a co-founder of this summer school focusing on artificial intelligence. This relatively recent research field is in very high demand – around five applications are received for each of the 110 places available, according to press officer Claudia Däfler. Besides doctoral students and postdocs, participants from industry and business will also attend this two-week event. “The course is specifically aimed at external academics but internal participants can also take part via video-streaming,” explained Däfler.

Making contacts while climbing

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen are of course also represented - as organizers, tutors and speakers. There is also plenty of opportunity for participants to enjoy themselves in addition to the expert input. After all, it is also all about establishing new contacts as well as gaining knowledge. And there’s plenty of opportunity to do so, for example on visits to a climbing park, on punting boats on the Neckar or at the conference dinner.

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