“Heidelberg Has Paved the Way for My Academic Career”
Dr. Zoe Cournia, Chemist, Group Leader and Lecturer at Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens/Greece
PhD Student at Heidelberg University (Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing/IWR) from October 2001 until September 2006
Why did you decide to attend Heidelberg University for your doctoral training?
For my graduate studies I had offers from Oxford, Cambridge, and Heidelberg Universities. After visiting all three places, I knew that Heidelberg was the one. I was offered a position to work in Prof. Jeremy Smith’s laboratory at IWR (Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing). I was impressed by the truly interdisciplinary nature of Prof. Smith’s lab, IWR, the Heidelberg doctoral program, and the opportunity to embark in such an exciting project in the field of Life Sciences. I was also impressed by the international nature of the University and the beautiful city.
What experience have you gained in Heidelberg?
My “Doktorvater”, Professor Smith, taught me not only scientific and biophysical principles, but also guided me through conference presentations, high-performance computing, manuscript writing, research planning, which all helped develop my independent thinking and matured me as a scientist. During my doctoral training, I was given the opportunity to be a Teaching Assistant for undergraduate students and to participate in the mentoring of two practical students. Heidelberg University also provided me with financial assistance to attend several scientific conferences, which furthered my academic training.
How has your scientific career developed after your stay in Heidelberg?
Heidelberg University, my alma mater, has paved the way for my academic career. It is here that I learned to love and to teach the love for scientific endeavors. The training that I received enabled me to embark in a postdoctoral program at Yale University, USA. During my tenure at Yale University, I was allowed to create my own seminar and teach it to Yale undergraduate students based on my Heidelberg training. Finally, my doctoral studies in Heidelberg enabled me to achieve my highest aspiration, to continue my academic career as a biomedical researcher and teacher in my home country, Greece. I am now a Group Leader and Lecturer, having my own independent research group with two postdoctoral researchers, two master’s students and one doctoral student.
What memories do you associate with Heidelberg beside your scientific work?
As part of AEGEE-Heidelberg I remember meeting and organizing events for the ERASMUS students, the Marstallhof parties, the Walpurgisnaechte in Thingstaette, Picnics on the Neckarwiese, the Schlossbeleuchtung, the Weinfeste, walking on Philosophenweg, rowing in the Neckar, getting a warm Gluehwein from the Christmas Market, taking up the Bergbahn to watch the view from Koenigsstuhl…. and so much more. All this made my Heidelberg experience unique - I cannot imagine being a happier doctoral student in another place!
Do you recommend to do research in Heidelberg to your students or within your scientific network?
In Heidelberg, I also managed to build up networks that I have maintained until the present. On the whole, Heidelberg University has given me not only excellent academic education, training, and network possibilities, but also has provided an excellent student and living environment that makes a research stay unique! I would absolutely recommend research stays and further studies in Heidelberg University to my students and fellow researchers.