Handover of office in Göttingen
More than 800 internal and external guests attended the Annual Meeting of the Max Planck Society in Göttingen from June 20 to 22. Martin Stratmann received a standing ovation from the audience following this key note speech, in which he urged both federal and state governments to reduce bureaucracy in order to maintain Germany's ties with leading scientific nations, such as the USA and China. Stratmann stated, "Those who seek to avoid risks actually take the greatest risk." Patrick Cramer, the newly appointed President of the Max Planck Society, echoed this sentiment in his inaugural address, declaring, "Those who think freely, inspire others, and explore uncharted territories can achieve groundbreaking research outcomes and ultimately change the world."
The Annual Meeting for this year, held in Göttingen from June 20th to 22nd, commenced on Tuesday evening with a scientific opening lecture delivered by Melina Schuh, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Natural Sciences. The lecture took place in the grand auditorium located at Wilhelmsplatz. Martin Stratmann, President of the Max Planck Society, and Metin Tolan, President of Georg August University, warmly welcomed the primarily internal attendees and emphasised the strong network and thriving scientific environment present in Göttingen. Vice President Asifa Akhtar introduced the speaker, highlighting that Melina Schuh was appointed as one of the youngest directors in 2016 and had already been recognized with the prestigious EMBO Gold Medal as an outstanding young researcher. Akhtar further praised Schuh as an exceptional role model, both as an accomplished scientist and a group leader.
In her captivating lecture “From studies of eggs to fertility treatment". Melina Schuh took the audience on a fascinating "journey to the beginning of life," highlighting the relatively limited research conducted on the human egg cell. She shared her group's groundbreaking work in recent years, which involved developing various methods to address this knowledge gap. One significant discovery pertains to enhancing the accurate separation of chromosomes by stabilizing the spindle apparatus responsible for this process. Schuh's presentation included a compelling graph illustrating the importance of considering family planning at a younger age. It demonstrated how the risk of faulty chromosome transmission increases with age, rising from around 20 percent in younger individuals to 70 percent in older individuals. The audience was thoroughly impressed by the lecture and the remarkable outcomes achieved by Schuh and her team, as evidenced by the multitude of questions that followed her presentation
Medals and awards for young researchers
In 2023, a total of 29 young scientists are being honoured with the Otto Hahn Medal for their exceptional scientific accomplishments in relation to their doctoral theses. The ceremonial presentation of these medals, endowed with 7500 euros each, took place during the Section meetings on the opening day of the 74th Max Planck Annual Meeting in Göttingen.
Four of the awardees, namely Dmitriy Borodin from the Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences, Zhexin Wang from the MPI for Molecular Physiology, Qun Yang from the MPI for Chemical Physics of Solids and Micha Heilbron from the MPI for Psycholinguistics—have additionally been honoured with the Otto Hahn Award. This prestigious award affords them the opportunity to engage in research abroad. Following their research stay, these young scientists have the opportunity to head their own research group with their own research concept at a Max Planck Institute.
The Max Planck Society celebrates its 75th anniversary
The Max Planck Society (MPG) was founded on February 26, 1948, in Göttingen. On this day, it was established in the cafeteria of the Aerodynamic Research Institute, now part of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). It succeeded the Kaiser Wilhelm Society (KWG), founded in 1911 as the first institution in Germany dedicated to promoting non-university research in its own institutes. The renowned physicist Max Planck agreed to lend his name to the KWG’s successor organisation. The position of the first President was assumed by the chemist and Nobel laureate Otto Hahn. Both of these individuals, who played a crucial role in the Max Planck Society, are buried in the old city cemetery in Göttingen.
The city of Göttingen took centre stage during the Plenary Assembly, which served as the highlight of the 74th annual meeting. It was during this assembly that Martin Stratmann symbolically passed on the President's chain of office to Patrick Cramer. However, before the event could commence, the guests found themselves unexpectedly participating in an impromptu sprint across the red carpet. Just moments before the festive assembly, a heavy thunderstorm swept through Göttingen, causing flooding in various areas.
Göttingen has undoubtedly played a significant role in shaping the history and current standing of the Max Planck Society. However, it is not just the past and present that Göttingen contributes to, but also an exciting future, as emphasized by Stephan Weil, the Minister President of the State of Lower Saxony. In his address, Weil reiterated the commitment already made by his minister Falko Mohrs on Wednesday evening that the state of Lower Saxony would invest 1.5 billion euros in additional funding for science, a move that would undoubtedly benefit the Max Planck Society and its endeavours.
The Federal Minister of Education and Research Bettina Stark-Watzinger then spoke, representing the Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who had to cancel at short notice due to urgent international appointments. She praised the MPG as a scientific organization that "stands for groundbreaking inventions." She mentioned electron microscopy, MRI and genetic scissors, among others. Germany needs an MPG in top form, she said, because only with a strong science can the crises of our time be overcome. Stark-Watzinger thanked Martin Stratmann for his work and assured his successor Patrick Cramer of the support of the German government.
Honour for Martin Stratmann
The guests bid farewell to Martin Stratmann with a standing ovation after his ceremonial address, in which he appealed to the federal and state governments to reduce bureaucracy so as not to lose Germany's connection to the major scientific nations, including the United States and China. "Those who want to avoid risks take the greatest risk," Stratmann said.
The Plenary Assembly concluded after an engaging two-hour session, ending on a poignant note with a special song. The melody of "Göttingen" by French chansonnière Barbara filled the Lokhalle, also surprising Patrick Cramer, the newly inaugurated President of the Max Planck Society. In his inaugural address, he had shared the significance of the song as a symbol of what can be achieved when courage, perseverance, and trust converge. Cramer drew parallels to the world of science, highlighting that: "Those who think freely, inspire others, and explore uncharted territories can achieve groundbreaking research outcomes and ultimately change the world." During his visits to all the Max Planck Society institutes, Cramer has witnessed firsthand the remarkable breadth of research being conducted. He expressed his admiration for the quest for knowledge driven by curiosity, which unites all employees within the MPG. Cramer described the MPG community as "finders" rather than mere seekers, emphasizing their mindful approach to experiencing the moments of serendipity, “those almost magical moments [...]," that occur along the scientific journey. Reflecting on the founding history of the MPG, Cramer emphasized the importance of “vision, personal commitment, and unity.” The full speech by can be viewed in the video below.
Strong networks at the location
The location in Göttingen is home to four Max Planck Institutes with approximately 1,580 employees: the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organisation, the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, the Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research. These institutes all engage in international research and maintain close connections with the University of Göttingen and other regional partners. The excellence of research in Göttingen is also reflected in the significant number of Nobel Prize winners - four of them from the ranks of the Max Planck Society: Manfred Eigen (Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1967), Erwin Neher and Bernd Sackmann (Nobel Prize for Medicine 1991) and Stefan Hell (Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2014). Anyone interested in exploring the research conducted by these and other Max Planck Nobel laureates are cordially invited to visit the exhibition "Pioneers of Science ", which will open on 23 June in the Forum Wissen, or to learn more through the Digital Story available on the website: www.nobel.mpg.de
Max Planck Day in Göttingen
A day of wonder, exploration, and engagement awaited visitors at the Max Planck Day on June 23rd, located at the Science Market in front of the Old Town Hall. Despite the challenging weather, visitors braved the elements to immerse themselves in the diverse research showcased by various Max Planck Institutes from Göttingen and across Germany. The Max Planck Day ended with a Science Slam held in the Old Town Hall.
In Lower Saxony, the Max Planck Society operates a total of five institutes, employing a combined workforce of 1,730 individuals. Alongside the Göttingen location, there is also a branch of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics situated in Hanover