Pupils Meet Scientists: An Introduction to Research in the Life Sciences

Press Release No. 18/2013
24 January 2013
“Bertalanffy Lecture” with British cell and developmental biologist Prof. Dr. Enrico Coen

To make the frequently complex research issues and findings in the life sciences understandable to interested laypersons, Heidelberg University’s Centre for Organismal Studies (COS) is presenting another event in the series of “Bertalanffy Lectures”, a forum supported by the Klaus Tschira Foundation for exchanges between pupils and scientists from various disciplines. At the invitation of the COS, renowned scientists from all over the world share their current knowledge from research at the intersection of biology, medicine and the life sciences, as well as answer questions from the participants. The next lecturer is cell and developmental biologist Prof. Dr. Enrico Coen from the John Innes Centre in Norwich (Great Britain), who will meet with approximately 250 pupils on 31 January 2013, with an additional event for researchers to be held 1 February 2013.

The first part of the programme (31 January) is entitled “Leaves, Loops and Leonardo: The Generation of Biological Forms”. The presentation will focus on how genes and growth processes are coordinated, thus creating the diversity of shapes in flowers and leaves, for example. Prof. Coen’s lecture is directed at pupils in the last years of grammar-school and students at so-called “Stützpunktschulen” that specialise in biology. Afterwards Prof. Coen and researchers from the Centre for Organismal Studies will join attendees for discussion in small groups.

The following day (1 February) is reserved for scientists of the Heidelberg research hub and includes not only the lecture, entitled “Hidden Signposts of Development: Tissue Cell Polarity and its Role in Morphogenesis”, but also provides the opportunity for intensive exchange among attendees. The focus here will be on aspects of cell and tissue polarity. How does polarity influence the shape of a flower or leaf? Prof. Coen is especially dedicated to making science accessible to the general public, as evidenced by his popular science publications on flower development, the art of the genes, and the identification of higher-level organisational principles in microscopic and macroscopic habitats.

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 the level of the cell to the entirety of an organism. The name of the lecture series, begun in October of last year, commemorates Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1901-1972), a significant theoretical biologist and systems theorist 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. For information on the Bertalanffy Lecture – the next event in the series is to be held on 2 and 3 May 2013 – go to

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

Note to news desks:

The Bertalanffy Lectures will be held in the Ludwig von Bertalanffy lecture hall, Im Neuenheimer Feld 230, on 31 January and 1 February 2013. The lectures begin at 2 pm on both days. Members of the media are cordially invited. 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 54-2311).

Frederike Seibold
Centre for Organismal Studies
Tel: (06221) 54-6497

Communications and Marketing
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