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Public outreach activities

The modern way of life relies on a continuous flow of technological innovations. In spite of that, large parts of the German society have strong reservations about novel technical applications, particularly in the biotech sector. The “German Angst” may have cultural roots but there is certainly an element of false perception of risks and benefits, with risks being grossly overestimated and benefits being down-played or ignored. The Graduate School as an
institution of higher learning sees its responsibility to inform the public of its activity and about biological sciences in general. Education begins with the young and the Graduate School will actively approach high schools, high school pupils and high school teachers to raise awareness of biosciences, inform about potential, benefits and risks for science and society, and inspire young people to become scientists. In this respect, the Graduate School will participate and support a number of ongoing and highly successful out-reach activities initiated by the ZMBH, the Zoology Institute, the DKFZ, the University and the City of Heidelberg.

High school program

Members of the Graduate School regularly host high school classes during orientation and information days. Pupils are being informed on research topics of general interest and in a language that is understandable to them. This also includes lab visits and discussions with PhD students. Participating schools come from the Heidelberg (Heidelberger Schulverbund) and the Ludwigshafen (Ludwigshafener Schulverbund) area. The Graduate School strongly supports this initiative and the Dean of Studies, the Teaching Coordinator and the Career Development Advisor will address the pupils and help organize lab visits.
Members of the Graduate School from the ZMBH have developed experiments for high school pupils to be conducted at selective, well equipped high schools ( This initiative is supported by Pfizer Inc. More than 3,000 pupils and 500 teachers have already been trained by this program. HBIGS supports this program by providing reagents and equipment.

Sabbatical for High School Teacher (2006-2011)

The program, run from 2006-2011, was directed at a selected number of high school teachers who have the chance to work in a research lab for six months, conduct their own research in biosciences, and participate in the education of teacher candidates. The participating teachers are on sabbatical at full pay. This highly innovative and unique project is jointly funded and organized by the ZMBH, the Nat-working initiative of the Robert-Bosch-Foundation and the State of Baden-Württembergia. Eight teachers were trained in the laboratories of current or former HBIGS members Prof. Victor Sourjik, PD Matthias Seedorf, Prof. Jörg Grosshans (now in Göttingen), and Prof. Michael Lanzer.
-> Radio Interview with Stefan Viel, a high school teacher who was on sabbatical in Prof. Sourjik´s lab.
-> Radio Interview with Frank Harder, a high school teacher who was on sabbatical in Prof. Konrad Beyreuther´s lab at the ZMBH.
For more information about the project contact

International Summer Science School Heidelberg (ISH)

The ISH is a joint initiative of the University and the City of Heidelberg, the EMBL, the DKFZ and the MPI for Medical Research. Founded in 1996 the ISH organizes a summer school for up to 18 international high school students, age 17-19, from partner cities of Heidelberg, to expose them to biological and medical sciences. This includes hands-on experimentation during organized practical courses at the EMBL (one week) and lab visits (three weeks). During this time, the pupils are part of international research teams, and they attend lectures and seminars. Participation in the summer school is free of charge.

Addressing the general public

A highly successful seminar series on general topics of life science takes place every Sunday morning during the winter term since 1980. This event attracts crowds of several hundred people, with entire families from children to grandparents attending the lectures. Members of the Graduate School have regularly participated as lecturers, and will continue to do so.

National Neuroscience Competition for High School Students

A group of HBIGS Graduate students established and continue to coordinate the annual national neuroscience competition for high school students in Germany. An official member of the International Brain Bee program, the German Brain Bee ("Bee" = Contest) is a live Question & Answer competition that tests high school students' knowledge of neuroscience. The best young brains from around the country travel to Heidelberg for a full day of activities and fun competitive activities. Judged by visiting and local neuroscientists, students are quizzed about the brain and how it relates to intelligence, memory, emotions, sensations, movement, stress, aging, sleep, and neurological disorders. Five Sections make up the contest: two Podium Sections, where the judges ask questions to each student, a short Written Quiz, a basic Neuroanatomy Practical, using brain models and real human brain tissue, and a Patient Diagnosis Section with actual patient videos. The language of the program is English, although judges also understand German.

The winners of each national Brain Bee across six continents will travel to Vienna, Austria in September for the International Contest, where they will attend and be recognized during the World Neurology Congress. This event is coordinated entirely by HBIGS graduate students, now in its third year. To get involved or learn more about the program, further information is available at and the team can be reached at


School Neuroscience Workshops about the Senses

HBIGS Graduate Students have developed a program to spark high school students' interests in neuroscience, the study of the brain and nervous systems. PhD students travel to local and regional high schools, science museums, and science fairs to proctor one- to two-hour workshops for biology and science students. The fun, hands-on workshop allows students to discover the mechanisms of the human sensory systems. Activities focus on the senses of vision, touch, taste, smell, balance, and temperature and are designed to engage all students as they realize their own biological foundations. Students learn about the retina in the eye, the olfactory receptors in the nose, the vestibular system in the inner ear, the touch receptors in the skin, the taste buds on the tongue, muscular reflexes that protect against injury, and visuo-motor plasticity and learning through a motor coordination task. The aims of the workshop reach beyond scientific understanding and include making science fun for ambitious and curious students.

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