Sixth-formers Meet Scientists: An Introduction to Research in the Life Sciences

Press Release No. 210/2012
26 September 2012
“Bertalanffy Lecture” as a forum for engagement with new findings and current issues

New research findings and issues in the life sciences are frequently complex and difficult to understand for laypersons. This is where the “Bertalanffy Lectures” come in, a new series of lectures at Heidelberg University’s Centre for Organismal Studies (COS). With support from the Klaus Tschira Foundation they are designed not least to provide a forum for exchanges between schoolchildren and scientists from various disciplines. Central to these lectures is the engagement with research findings from biology, medicine and the natural sciences. The lectures will take place at regular intervals and will be held by renowned scientists from all over the world. The speaker at the first of these events, which takes place at Heidelberg University on 4 and 5 October 2012 with some 250 sixth-formers, is Prof. Dr. Alfonso Martinez-Arias, developmental biologist at the University of Cambridge (UK).

The first part of the two-day programme (4 October) is entitled “Genetic Alchemy and the Making of Animal Embryos”. Professor Martinez-Arias’ lecture is angled at grammar-school sixth-formers and students at so-called “Stützpunktschulen” that specialise in biology. Subsequently Prof. Martinez-Arias and scientists from the Centre for Organismal Studies will be available for discussion with the participants in small groups. The second day (5 October) is reserved for the researchers. Alongside lectures on “Cell Fate Choice and Decisions: An Embryonic Stem-Cell Perspective” there will be an opportunity for an intensive exchange of views and knowledge. The organisers are expecting researchers from scientific locations all over Heidelberg to attend.

The Centre for Organismal Studies unites zoology and plant science in a joint interdisciplinary institution, with a view to investigating the complex biological mechanisms of living systems from molecular analysis and cellular matters to the entirety of an organism. The name of the new lecture series commemorates Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1901-1972), one of the most significant theoretical biologists and systems theorists of the 20th century. Systems theory is a cross-disciplinary research model in which “systems” are drawn upon to describe and explain phenomena of different levels of complexity. The next Bertalanffy Lecture will take place in January 2013. For more information on the first in the series, go to and see “public outreach”.

The Klaus Tschira Foundation supports the sciences, mathematics and computer science in research and teaching and provides funding for projects involving schoolchildren. The aim of its activities is to promote public understanding and appreciation for these subjects. For more information on the foundation, go to


Note for newsdesks
The first Bertalanffy Lecture takes place in the Ludwig von Bertalanffy lecture hall, Im Neuenheimer Feld 230 on 4 and 5 October 2012.  On both days the lectures begin at 2 pm. Representatives of the media are cordially invited to participate and report. Before the event, Prof. Dr. Joachim Wittbrodt, managing director of the Centre for Organismal Studies, will be available for inquiries or interviews. Appointments can be arranged via the press office (phone: +49 6221 542311).


Frederike Seibold

Centre for Organismal Studies

phone: +49 6221 546497

Communications and Marketing

Press Office, phone: +49 6221 542311

Editor: Email
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