Dr Morty, you are a Principal Investigator at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim, which is one of the three supporting institutions in the LOEWE Centre UGMLC along with the Universities of Giessen and the Marburg Lung Center. What are your main areas of research? We are mainly dealing with two issues that are very relevant for intensive care medicine in my research group: firstly, we want to understand which molecular mechanisms create a platform for the formation of oedema in lungs in adults. Secondly, we are investigating lung development, that is to say, the formation of bronchi and alveoli in children. One special area of focus involves the specific situation for premature babies who need to be given artificial respiration – and this is a high-risk process that often damages their lungs.
In addition to your research, you are the head of the UGMLC School. Why has UGMLC set up its own graduate course? We can only make long-term progress in research, in clinical diagnostics and treating lung diseases if we train the next generation of scientists by closely involving them in top-level research. This is also my personal motivation for working at the UGMLC School, which Professor Werner Seeger initiated as the UGMLC spokesperson in 2009. However, the idea of networking is very important to us. The LOEWE Centre brings together lung research at the Universities of Giessen and Marburg and the Max Planck Institute in Bad Nauheim. The same is true for the UGMLC School: we are pooling all the topics related to lungs when training PhD students at the three sites and are therefore cooperating closely with the Giessen Graduate Programme entitled "Molecular Biology and Medicine of the Lung" and the "International Max Planck Research School for Heart and Lung Research" in Bad Nauheim.
Who are your students and what do you offer them? We accept 15 to 20 PhD students every year. As we receive more than 2,000 applications from all over the world, the selection process is never easy, but we make sure that at least one third of them always come from Germany and more than half of them are women. The three-year curriculum includes weekly tutorials and three to four symposiums a year with international experts. Then there is the summer school. One of the highlights for our students there is meeting Nobel Prize winners, who are not only impressive in their own subject field. Those attending often pick up a new aspect that motivates them from their personal discussions.
How do you deal with the fact that more PhD students are being trained than university and non-university research can accommodate? We are naturally aware of this fact. Those who complete our programme also attend modules on soft skills and career planning. We are very happy and rather proud that all our graduates have found a job so far.
- Head of the Graduate School at the LOEWE Centre UGMLC
- Principal Investigator at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research