Community Effort

By Victoria Stern Community Effort Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics: #1 (International) The Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, founded in 1998, may be a young organization, but it’s not run like one. The faculty here boasts of the Institute’s easy-to-navigate infrastructure, dedication to team building, strong collaboration among departments, and engaging social opportunities—q

Victoria Stern
Oct 31, 2009

Community Effort

Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics: #1 (International)

The Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, founded in 1998, may be a young organization, but it’s not run like one. The faculty here boasts of the Institute’s easy-to-navigate infrastructure, dedication to team building, strong collaboration among departments, and engaging social opportunities—qualities that scientists there rated highly enough to put it at number one among international institutions.

Typically in Europe, academic institutions tend to be hierarchical, says Marino Zerial, a cell biology group leader and managing director at the Max Planck Institute. However, this institution has established a structure where all groups—research directors, administrative heads, secretaries, as well as student representatives—meet monthly to weigh in on the scientific direction of the institute, says Zerial. Though decisions are sometimes reached more slowly, he says, the process gives “all parts of faculty and administration a voice.”

The trust that the institute places in the opinions of its researchers helps open the door to collaborations. The teamwork fostered at the institute “allows a cell biologist like myself to work on a project, in say biophysics, even without experience in physics,” says Zerial. Young scientists, including postdocs and young faculty, are encouraged to explore the facilities through training programs designed to help them gain skills in the electron microscopy and mass spectrometers, for example, that they may need in the future, says Zerial.

Nurturing scientists isn’t only about science. For example, Zerial organizes a Christmas show every year that highlights other talents on campus, including theater, cabaret, classical music, and jazz performances. “Last year we had our first rock performance, which was great,” says Zerial.