The 17th Horizons in Molecular Biology PhD Student Symposium

14th-17th of September 2020

Tales from the first ever online Horizons Symposium

The 17th Horizons in Molecular Biology symposium, organized by the students of the IMPRS for Molecular Biology was held from 14th to 17th September 2020; and abiding with pandemic fashion, it was- you guessed it right- online! While preparations were already underway for an in person conference, with all our speakers confirmed to fly down to Göttingen for four days of scientific exchange and lots of fun, the move to an online format was inevitable and despite some bumps, rather smooth.

As a student organized conference, the aim of Horizons, since its inception, has been to provide a platform where graduate students can interact with established PIs in a less formal setting, listen to their spectacular scientific work but also get to know their stories and the obstacles they have faced. Therefore, we wanted the online conference to be as interactive as possible. After trying and testing multiple platforms, the team finally decided to use BigMarker for hosting the conference. 

The first day of the conference was marked by the Career Fair, wherein we invite speakers who did not take the academic route after their PhD, to share their journeys and provide graduate students with an idea of the multiple paths available to them post their PhDs. This year we had some amazing speakers from scientific publishing, industry, animation and entrepreneurs, among them, Dr. Richard Sever, the founder of bioRxiv, Dr. Erika Shugart, the CEO of the American Society of Cell Biology, who had an illustrious career in scientific communication. As part of the Career Fair we also have workshops that aim to provide students with soft skills that they might miss out on in the lab. This year, we had Joanne Kamens from Addgene, helping us introverted, shy students with our networking skills and Martijn Bijker, guiding us on how to brush up our CVs for a transition to the pharmaceutical industry.

As part of our academic talks, we had the honour of hosting Prof Richard Henderson, the winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry as our keynote speaker. We also had talks by many distinguished researchers with path breaking scientific work. Ramanarayan Krishnamurthy gave an amazingly engaging talk about chemical evolution using the story of 17 camels as the backdrop. Abdou Rachid Thiam talked about lipid droplet biogenesis along with explaining how to make good mayonnaise.

The panel discussion which focused on scientific publishing, the rise of preprints and the road to open access, drew some very interesting takes from our speakers, ensuring an insightful conversation. An interaction session with the speakers at the end of the conference got us great feedback on the symposium and gave us the opportunity to interact with them on a more personal level.

We also had some amazing grad students presenting their scientific work; great talks by Prashant Rawat, Anna Arutyunyan and Claudia M. Fusco. A virtual poster session was also organized via Zoom and the participants could browse through our graphical abstract gallery and then go poster hopping. 

Horizons 2020 had over 350 registrations, with participants tuning in from 60 countries. We also had a session-‘Horizons Sunrise’- to interact with fellow students across the world and share our triumphs and challenges as PhD students.

After a successful, first ever online Horizons conference, preparations are already underway for Horizons 2021. The unpredictability of the Covid-19 situation has led us to start our planning for both an in person symposium and an online one. Invitations have been sent out and we are excited to already have confirmations by Grant Jensen, Ron Diskin, Kalina Hristova, Casey Green and Joshua Rosenthal. For further updates on speakers, workshops and other information regarding the conference, please visit our website Save the date 13th to 17th September 2021 and join us for four days of interesting and insightful scientific conversations. See you at the 18th Horizons in Molecular Biology!


Speakers 2020

Keynote Speaker

Richard Henderson


Eugene Koonin, Adi Stern
Cell Biology

Jan-Michael Peters, Kikue Tachibana, Sara Wickström

Developmental Biology

Kristina Haase, Maximina Yun

Molecular Genetics

Rachel Green, Samie Jeffrey, Jay Mellies, Jane Mellor


Claire Deo, Karissa Sanbonmatsu

Membrane Biology

Pedro Carvalho, Abdou Rachid Thiam

Structural Biology

Rubén Fernández-Busnadiego, Argyris Politis

Evolutionary Biology

Ram Krishnamurthy, Donate Weghorn

Photo gallery

More photos on our Flickr page.

For video recordings check our YouTube channel.