Tag der Vielfalt 2018 – Diversity @ MPI-CE

In December 2006 the German Diversity Charter was launched in order to emphasize a commitment to foster a corporate culture characterized by mutual respect and appreciation of each individual, to ensure that human resource processes are compatible with the diverse abilities and talents of co-workers, and in general to recognize the diversity in our society. In March 2010 the Max Planck Society signed this Diversity Charter. The central concern of the charter is that all co-workers should be respected regardless of their gender, nationality, ethnic background, sexual identity, religion or worldview, disability or age. On June 5, 2018, Germany will celebrate the 6th Diversity Day.  Co-workers in our institute are diverse in many ways. Diversity is a precious treasure. We would like to portrait five members of our institute this week to show the diversity in our institute, which is the breeding ground for intercultural exchange and successful scientific collaboration.  


Ana Depetris Chauvin in front of “la casa rosada”, the Argentinian main government building in her hometown Buenos Aires.

Ana Depetris Chauvin comes from Buenos Aires, Argentina. She joined our Department of Evolutionary Neuroethology last year as a postdoc to study the olfactory reception of host odors in drosophilid flies exploiting different ecological niches. She is particularly interested in how different odors elicit different activity patterns in the brains of evolutionary related Drosophila species, depending on whether odors are ecologically important and therefore behaviorally relevant for them. Ana enjoys the internationality of the institute: “I think an international environment is extremely positive at the scientific level by encouraging international collaborations. But, what is even more important, it is deeply satisfying in terms of cultural diversity. In a globalized world, and especially in the field of science, interacting with people from different backgrounds is an every-day reality. Having a diverse working environment increases our tolerance, our empathy and, in most cases, enriches our understanding of reality by providing different point of views”, she says.

Abith Vattekkatte in the lab at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena.

Abith Vattekkatte is originally from Mumbai, India, where he was trained as an organic chemist. After completing a teaching assistantship in Albany, New York, he joined our Department of Bioorganic Chemistry in 2011 as a PhD student. He received his PhD from Jena University in 2015 and has been working as a postdoc since then, elucidating multiproduct terpene synthase pathways. He likes working in our institute, as he emphasizes. Especially the diversity among coworkers contributed to this positive experience: “Important factors have been the ease of integration and the cooperative atmosphere in the institute. The helpful and dedicated nature of coworkers and their collaborative instinct make the institute a great place to work at. The diversity has also resulted in some long lasting friendships across various nationalities.”

Matilda Gikonyo is studying how flea beetles of the genus Psylliodes, which are pests on many crop plants of the cabbage family, detoxify the plants’ defenses.
© Anna Schroll

Matilda Gikonyo comes from Kenya. Since 2016, she has been a PhD student in the Research Group Sequestration and Detoxification in Insects. Her research focuses on whether host plant shifts led to the diversification of flea beetles belonging to the genus Psylliodes, and how the species feeding on Brassica plants adapted to the glucosinolate-myrosinase defense system. Matilda is a doctoral student of the International Max Planck Research School for "The Exploration of Ecological Interactions with Molecular and Chemical Techniques", a doctoral school jointly organized by the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology and FSU.  66 PhD students from 18 different nations are currently enrolled in the school. Working in such an environment has been very inspiring for Matilda, personally and scientifically: "Various challenges in the world currently cut across different countries and even continents, and collaborations are one of the most efficient and strongest ways of solving these problems. Working in a multi-national environment such as at the MPI-CE not only brings new scientific view points and ideas but also the appreciation of diverse cultures from around the world. I really appreciate living and working in this diverse environment as it has eased my integration into Germany and ultimately enhanced my scientific mindset to a higher level."

Jingjing Xiang at her desk in our library.

Jingjing Xiang from China is a student of Economics for Engineers and Natural Scientists (Master of Science) at Friedrich Schiller University Jena. She joined our library team in March as a student helper. She likes the international atmosphere at our institute: “As an international student, I think that we should work together and help each other like a family, with nice and patient colleagues. Whenever I have problems, I can be sure that the library team will support me to solve the problems. Even more important is that working here helps me broaden my horizon. Not only can I gain a lot of practical experience, but also get to know the culture and mindset of coworkers from different nationalities. Every day here holds new interesting experiences and encounters!”

Bill Hansson is the director of our Department of Evolutionary. The international expert on insect olfaction comes from Sweden and became a Max Planck director in 2005. Since 2014, he is also vice president of the Max Planck Society, where one of his main tasks is the continuing development of internationalization in the society. Promoting diversity is very important for him:  “Diversity is at the heart of science. People with different cultural backgrounds bring new points of view and fresh ideas. The Max Planck Society embraces this philosophy at all levels and I really enjoy working with coworkers from all over the world at my department. Science unites.”

Bill Hansson (sitting in the middle in the first row) and his Department of Evolutionary Neuroethology. People of 16 different nationalities from five continents are working in his lab.