Steering Committee 2021/2022

Larglinda Islami

Network Spokesperson
Leibniz Institute for Resilience Research

I have been fascinated by the functionality of the human body ever since I can remember. This was the reason why I pursued my bachelor’s degree in biotechnology at the Universities in Berlin and Madrid. That eventually led to me taking up translational neuroscience for my master’s degree at the Universities of Düsseldorf and Haifa.                
Currently, as a PhD student in neuroscience at the Leibniz Institute for Resilience Research in Mainz, I am investigating the impact of psychological stress on brain functionality by imaging neuronal activity under pharmacological interventions in mice.

During my term as PhD representative of all Leibniz institutions, I have primarily set myself the goal of strengthening the communication among the PhD students within and beyond the respective sections. Following the motto “together we are strong”, I believe the scientific communication and multidisciplinary collaboration is what drives an excellent and productive research community.


Valentin Hinterberger

Network Spokesperson
Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK Gatersleben)

I am a doctoral researcher at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK Gatersleben). I completed my bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 2016 at HSWT in beautiful Triesdorf, Bavaria. I subsequently moved to Halle (Saale) where I obtained a Master’s degree in Plant Sciences at MLU, and developed a fascination for plant genetics and breeding.

In 2019, I began work on a PhD project at the IPK, focusing on the genetics of pathogen resistance in wheat, as well as hybrid breeding. When I am not coding or on the phone, I enjoy tending my vegetable garden and baking.

Since I started at the IPK I chaired the PhD-Student Board at my institute. To see what difference teaming up can make for the working conditions and also the social environment among my peers was a really great experience. I like a polite and direct communication style and looking forward to continuing my engagement in the frame of the Leibniz-PHD-Network.

As a spokesperson, my main focus lies on ensuring the scientific independence of young scientists and the encouragement of good scientific practices in the next generation of scientists. As important as this is the improvement of the representation all doctoral researchers at all Leibniz-Institutes by elected representatives, where this in not yet the case.

This is in my view our best chance to increase the effort that is put into our qualification, were needed, and ensure a mentally healthy work environment for us.


Sofia Hayden

Museum für Naturkunde

I am doctoral researcher at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin. I am from Chile but moved to Berlin in 2013 to do a bachelor degree in Biology at the Humboldt University and a master degree in Ecology, Biodiversity and Evolution at the Freie University in Berlin. I started my PhD last year, mid of the pandemic, for which I am studying the role of climate in the demographic history of four Australian skink species. In my free time, I enjoy taking my dog for a walk and doing sports, such as bouldering, running or yoga.

As the network treasurer, I will contribute to the important tasks that the network has: creating spaces and opportunities for doctoral researchers and improving our working conditions, always with the intention of covering all the diversity across the Leibniz institutes and improving the inclusion and representation of each doctoral researchers.


Alexander Turtureanu

Section A Spokesperson
Leibniz-Centre General Linguistics

I earned my bachelor’s degree in Hungarian Studies at the University of Vienna and my MA in General Linguistics at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Since 2020, I am a doctoral researcher at the Leibniz-Centre General Linguistics in Berlin. My main interests lie at the interface between linguistics, language philosophy and cognitive science. In my dissertation, I aim at developing a formal model of mental representation that deepens our understanding of the interpretation of negation in natural language.

During my time as a member of the Steering Committee, I would like to try and help optimise the communication between the PhD network and the doctoral researchers of the Leibniz Association and adjust the network-related activities of the individual institutes to the network’s annual schedule.


Tieza Mica Santos

Section B Spokesperson
Leibniz-Institut für ökologische Raumentwicklung

I am currently a Ph.D. fellow at the Dresden Leibniz Graduate School (DLGS), a joint interdisciplinary facility of the Leibniz-Institut für ökologische Raumentwicklung (IÖR) and the Technische Universität Dresden (TUD). I am a political scientist and international development work specialist by profession before shifting to academia. I completed my Bachelors in European Studies – Major in International Relations and Masters in Political Science – Major in Global Politics in the Philippines. I have worked on various projects with governments, multilateral institutions, civil society and grassroots organization, and the private sector. My worked mainly focused on sustainable and climate finance, water-food-energy nexus, natural resource governance, climate mitigation and low-carbon transition for cities, nature-based solutions for climate-vulnerable communities, and social enterprises and startups in Southeast Asia and Europe. I later moved to Hungary to pursue my Masters in Environmental Sciences and Policy.

I consider myself an “Accidental Scientist” after realizing how my professional journey and academic training have been complementary. This later sparked my interest in the natural and environmental sciences and laid the foundations of my scientific skills and knowledge. As a systems thinker, I have a clear vision of my capability to contribute to the science-policy and research-praxis nexus that can address complex transformation challenges. I hope to also contribute to further strengthening the Leibniz Ph.D. network through research exchange and networking that will foster inter- and multi-disciplinary scientific collaboration.


Jantje Goerdten

Section C Spokesperson
Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology (BIPS)

I am a doctoral researcher at the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology (BIPS) in Bremen. I studied Public Health at the University of Bremen and Epidemiology at the Maastricht University in the Netherlands. After my master’s degree, I worked as a research assistant for the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. There I worked on prediction models for dementia risk and spend my free time in the Scottish Highlands. After almost 2 years in Edinburgh, I decided to move back to my hometown, Bremen. Now, I am working on a project to identify dietary biomarker in children and adolescents. During my spare time I like to be outside, with my friends and family, or do embroidery.

My main goal during my time as section spokesperson will be to bring doctoral researchers together and discuss issues faced by them. I want to facilitate networking and socialising, but also keep up the good communication of interesting events, meetings or other opportunities that are relevant for the doctoral researchers in the institutes of Section C. I am excited to be part of the Leibniz PhD Network steering committee, as it is a great interdisciplinary team.


Zahra Kafrashian

Section D Spokesperson
Leibniz Institute for New Materials (INM)

I come from Tehran, Iran and I received my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Polymer science and engineering at Amirkabir university of technology in Tehran. In my masters, I was more focused on biomaterials, and I decided to continue my higher education in this field. I joined the Dynamic Biomaterials group which is an interface between biomaterials and engineered living materials. My thesis is more focused on delivery of therapeutic materials via light activation of biomaterials in the concept of optical waveguides.

Apart from my studies, I would like to be part of the network of doctoral researchers in hope of improving the quality of working conditions for PhDs during our studies so we can focus and learn efficiently with less concerns, especially facing a hard pandemic which affected many of us during this time.

In my parallel life next to the PhD world, I play basketball for a club in Saarland and I enjoy learning music and photography for fun. 


Simeon Choo

Section E Spokesperson
Leibniz Institute for Maltic Sea Research

I studied Biomedical Engineering at the National University of Singapore, worked for two years thereafter for an advertising firm doing data analytics, and then studied my Masters at the University of Kiel/GEOMAR. At the moment, I am working on my PhD at the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research in Rostock. My work involves understanding the impact of large polyphosphate-accumulating bacteria on phosphate fluxes, and vice-versa. The work is rewarding, as I’m deeply interested in looking at bioremediation strategies to combat aquatic pollution.

As a section spokesperson and institute representative, I am able to help other PhD students connect with each other, as well as lending support to any student in need of information or even just a listening ear, especially during the corona pandemic. Admittedly, it is not easy to set up social gatherings at the moment, but we all do what we can. For me, being a part of the Leibniz PhD Network makes it simple to form connections and exchange ideas on how to continually improve working conditions for PhD students.”