Early Career Support

Early-career support is one of the priorities of the Rhine-Main area universities. This commitment has been implemented in the last years with the recruitment and promotion of researchers in the early stages of their career as well as the establishment of measures to potentiate their career support. In addition, the CRC1080 members are fully devoted to promote young researchers at different stages of their career.

Graduate Academies:

As a successful example of the measures implemented by the universities, Goethe University created the Goethe Research Academy for Early Career Researchers (GRADE, link) in order to support junior researchers with a comprehensive training program in multidisciplinary aspects. GRADE offers a wide-ranging set of services including a broad training program, funding opportunities for self-organized doctoral working groups, individual coaching, networking events, career talks and language classes. As a unit for all faculties, GRADE builds a standardized basis of Integration as well as Quality Management for Junior Scientists.

In addition to the central, university-wide GRADE unit, there are so-called GRADE Centers that reflect key issues of university research in specific areas. They provide a research-related environment for all junior researchers, stimulating inter- and transdisciplinary exchange. A main focus lies on special qualification offerings within those research areas. Therefore, the GRADE Centers pool the interdisciplinary expertise in doctoral education for the respective research focus. One of such centers is GRADE BRAIN (info, Spokesperson: Amparo Acker-Palmer) created to promote the interdisciplinary network interaction of young researchers in the field of neuroscience.

The most important aim of GRADE Brain is to pool the interdisciplinary expertise in neurosciences of six faculties of Goethe University Frankfurt as well as of several institutions such as the Max Planck Institutes for Brain Research, of Empirical Aesthetics and of Biophysics, the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies and the Ernst Strüngmann Institute for Neuroscience. The integration into interdisciplinary networks will allow PhD students and postdocs to complement disciplinary perspectives by dealing with topics covering the different levels of neuroscience from single genes or molecules via cells to cellular networks and behaviour. These topics require different techniques of molecular biology, systems neurobiology, cognitive neuroscience and clinical research as well as computational neuroscience and neurotechnology. As it is not possible to become an expert in all these areas, it is essential to provide basic knowledge in many of these areas and to teach how to communicate effectively between the different fields. As a part of GRADE, the Center focuses on the support of doctoral candidates and junior scientists by offering research seminars and lectures as well as events such as an annual meeting in cooperation with the ICNF.

In a similar manner, the JGU Mainz has initiated the Gutenberg Council for Young Researchers (GYR; info) gathering professors, postdocs and PhD students to promote young research careers, provide academic supervision, increase their visibility and favour consultation with the university management. So, all these established structures are instrumental for the fundamental goal of young career support and scientific training.

Postdoc/early career communities:

In Frankfurt, the "Young Investigator’s Colloquium" organized under the sponsorship of the Interdisciplinary Center for Neuroscience (ICNF, link, director Acker-Palmer) brings together junior group leaders to fuel the collaboration among the scientific community. GRADE organizes Postdoc Peer Groups at least once per year where postdoctoral researchers of different disciplines meet regularly in order to potentiate cooperative feedback under the support of a professional coach. Also, the Johanna Quandt Young Academy (http://jgya.de) in Frankfurt provides a platform for postdocs and group leaders to share knowledge across disciplines, provides a framework for translating gained expertise into a global context and brings together young scientists and leaders of the international science community. Moreover, the Aventis Foundation in Frankfurt (https://bridge.aventis-foundation.org) funds research awards for postdoctoral researchers in life sciences to help them to establish themselves in their academic field and boost their chances of gaining full professorships.

In Mainz, boosted by the initiative of postdocs and young clinicians, they have established a postdoc community since 2012 (link). On behalf of the community, the postdoc committee (a group of postdoc volunteers) helps to organize events and activities for postdocs at the UMC and mediates interactions with UMC’s faculty and administration. Specifically, the association is aiming (i) to create a network of scientific and social interactions among postdocs across UMC units, (ii) to facilitate communication with UMC faculty and administration, and (iii) to help providing information on funding and career development. A group of young group leaders within the postdoc community has established ties with junior group leaders from other natural sciences faculties of JGU and the IMB and formed the junior group leader network “Juggle” (Junior Group Leaders of Life and Natural Sciences at JGU, (link). Christina Vogelaar is the speaker of such association and Anne Sinning is also a member.

Furthermore, a similar platform has been established at the JGU, representing doctoral students, postgraduates, and assistant professors in humanities and social sciences (link).

Funding options:

GU and JGU offer the possibility to young researchers to apply for start-up and co-funding money at early stages of their post-doc training. Specific programs exist at both universities, which provide start-up funding for young investigators planning to apply for DFG money and also for young medical doctors to spend one or two years of their career in a research lab (in Frankfurt: FFF; in Mainz: Inneruniversitäre Forschungsförderung - link). Thus, young researchers are being mentored towards the process of becoming independent researchers by soft skills provided by programs such as GRADE and via specific mentoring programs (such as MeMentUM or Mentoring Hessen). The Johanna Quandt Young Academy at Goethe (JQYA)(link) is an independent academy within the Goethe University which fosters young researchers at the beginning of their independent career. JQYA offers different programs to support young scientists as Members or as Fellows providing seed funds for independence. Jasmin Hefendehl (associated member) and Anne Sinning (co-PI in A01) are being strongly supported by such initiatives.