Simone Mayer

Insights: Academia

Dr. Simone Mayer is a molecular neurobiologist interested in understanding the development of the neocortex, the brain structure that has significantly contributed to the evolution of advanced cognitive functions in mammals. Simone obtained her Bachelor degree in Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, UK focusing on physiology, development and neuroscience. She then joined the International Max Planck Research School in Molecular Biology in Göttingen and performed her MSc work on cortical development at Yale University, USA. Her doctoral work at the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine focused on inhibitory synapses and employed a wide range of cell biological and biochemical approaches. Being interested in both academia and science policy, Simone Mayer decided to get practical experience beyond a research lab during a traineeship at the European Research Council Executive Agency in Brussels, Belgium. After 5 months in an office, Simone Mayer was happy to be back at the bench during her postdoctoral work at the University of California, San Francisco funded by fellowships from European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and the German Research Foundation (DFG). Being based in the Bay Area, in collaboration with a biotech company, Simone Mayer established a novel method to determine physiological and transcriptomic features of single cells simultaneously. Since September 2018, Simone Mayer is heading an independent research group at the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research in Tübingen, Germany. Her research questions focus on how environmental impacts affect brain development, for example by modulating the neurotransmitter system. 


Following one’s own curiosity and pushing forward the frontiers of human knowledge is a dream for many PhD students. But how do you make this dream come true? And is the grass really so much greener on the other side? Simone Mayer will share her strategies and decision points that crucially contributed to her long-term goal of becoming a principal investigator. Having only recently started her own research group, she will share the unexpected joys as well as the unforeseen hurdles involved in this endeavor. For Simone, heading your own research lab is a bit like having your own company. As the CEO, one does a diverse array of jobs including being the head of Human Resources, the Head of Acquisitions, the Head of Public Relations as well as the Head of Finance and Research Strategy. For these reasons, heading her own group has been a very fun experience that has allowed Simone Mayer to grow as a person in many different areas already. Simone Mayer is looking forward to developing her research endeavor further in the coming years to push the frontiers of human knowledge on human brain development and evolution.