Steering Committee 2022/2023

Saida Milena Díaz Castillo


Network Spokesperson
Leibniz-Institut für Sonnenphysik

Hey, I am Saida Milena Díaz Castillo, I was born in Bogotá, Colombia, a big capital city at 2600 m above sea level close to the equator. My family is of peasant origin, from the mountainous areas of the Colombian Andes, so I enjoy being in forested and mountainous areas, there along with science books I fell in love with physics and astronomy. 

I am a Physicist and Astronomer from the National University of Colombia and, in 2022, I started my doctoral studies at the Leibniz Institute for Solar Physics – KIS in Freiburg, a wonderful city to live in if you love the forest. My thesis project is focused on the use and development of AI tools to perform statistical studies of quiet-sun small-scale magnetic field signatures at lower layers of the solar atmosphere.

I am passionate about nature, clean air and good, healthy food. I am involved in social and environmental activism. Before coming to Germany, I worked as a data scientist in the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare – ICBF in the First Childhood division supporting the development of mechanisms for the evaluation of quality conditions in the integral development of Colombian children. Currently, I work on scientific outreach projects for cultural and environmental conservation in collaboration with Colombian-German associations.

In my term as Spokesperson of the Leibniz PhD network, I seek to promote more inclusive and equity working environments showing the huge potential of diverse communities. I want to motivate our Doctoral researchers with the idea that “Science need us, the way we are”.

Together with my husband, also Colombian, we enjoyed good literature and good hot cocoa during our free time, we love animals and dancing.

Contact: spokesperson@leibniz-phd.net


Eframir Franco-Díaz


Network Spokesperson
Leibniz-Institut für Atmosphärenphysik

My name is Eframir Franco-Diaz and I am one of the Leibniz Spokespersons this year. I originally come from Puerto Rico (a United States Unincorporated Territory) and am honoured to have been elected to this position by all of you this year.

A brief description of who I am: I can speak fluently Spanish and English. Currently, I am learning German (currently at a B1 level). I have a bachelor’s degree in Applied Physics from the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao. During my time in Puerto Rico, I worked at the world-recognized Arecibo Observatory in various different positions (https://www.naic.edu/ao/blog/career-born-arecibo-observatory ). Then, I got my Master’s degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington DC, USA. While doing my Master’s, I had the opportunity to work in Space Weather Prediction and Energetic Particle Research at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. At the present, I am doing my PhD at the Leibniz Institute of Atmospheric Physics in Kühlungsborn, Germany working on the development of a new Wind Lidar System at this site, while also doing some Gravity Wave work. Outside of work, I enjoy photography and playing guitar. 🙂

Why did I want to be a Spokesperson? : Well, I have been a witness to many abuses that occur in academia all around the world. The steep hierarchical structure of the academic system makes it easy for scientist and professors to abuse their power. And doctoral researchers, in most cases, have to remain silent to not affect or ruin their careers. This is one of my motivations to take this position. I want to combat, and if possible, eradicate Power Abuse in academia. Of course, it will take time and effort, but with the support from you all, I do think it is possible. In my opinion, Power Abuse is the root of most (if not all) problems in the academic system. The normalization of this behaviour is affecting negatively the working conditions of doctoral students here in Germany and around the world.

Also, very close to the topic of Power Abuse, is Mental Health. The high-stress environment that we doctoral researchers have to live in, makes us very susceptible to having Burn-Outs, as well as other mental health disorders. With this in mind, I think it is important to increase awareness of Mental Health in Academia. To do so, I propose to bring Mental Health Groups of all Germany together. If we consolidate efforts and resources, we will be able to improve the mental health of doctoral researchers in and outside of the Leibniz Association. 

So, how can I help you today? Let me know. 🙂

Contact: spokesperson@leibniz-phd.net


Dominik Lonken


Treasurer
Leibniz-Institut für Virlogie

I was always thrilled about science and the endless questions nature keeps open for us to answer. Henceforth, I completed my bachelor’s degree in Molecular Medicine with a focus on virology and epidemiology from the University of Tübingen in 2018. Afterwards, I moved to Munich and obtained a master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences with a focus on drug discovery from the Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich in 2020. When the Corona pandemic unfolded in Germany I moved to Hamburg where I am now a doctoral researcher at the Leibniz Institute of Virology (formerly known as HPI) with a focus on Virus Immunology. 

I do not specifically work on Coronaviruses but investigate the crosstalk between different viruses and the receptors of first-line defence immune cells. In the long-term key players of the interactions shall be used for drug development and anti-viral therapies which allow treatments across viral species barriers.

As the network treasurer, who experienced the lack of social events and networking opportunities during the Covid pandemic, I would like to focus on the collaboration between the different institutes to foster a vivid dialogue among the different researchers and their institutes. Additionally, I will support the Leibniz network on the most pressing issues like working conditions, inclusion, and representation.

Contact: treasurer@leibniz-phd.net


Mitja Musberg

Section A Spokesperson
Leibniz-Forschungsmuseum für Georessourcen

I am a doctoral researcher at Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum – Leibniz-Forschungsmuseum für Georessourcen. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Archaeological Sciences and my master’s degree in Pre- & Protohistory and Economic & Raw Material Archaeology at the Ruhr University Bochum.

I’ve been fascinated by ancient mining and metallurgy practices since the beginning of my studies, and I am passionate about studying prehistoric societies and their interactions with the environment using archaeological and archaeometric research methods.

In the context of my doctoral thesis, I would like to attempt to reconstruct a prehistoric lifeworld in southwestern Sardinia on the basis of archaeological remains that are intended to serve as proxies for production (e.g., stone tools & technical ceramics) and consumption (e.g., metal objects) in early societies.

As a member of the Steering Committee, I would like to help promote networking and exchange between the Leibniz Institutes. Furthermore, I would like to work on uniform guidelines that enable a good onboarding process for young PhD researchers as well as good scientific practice.

Contact: section_a@leibniz-phd.net


Subhashree Nath

Section B Spokesperson
Leibniz-Institut für ökologische Raumentwicklung

Hi, I am a doctoral candidate at the Dresden Leibniz Graduate School – part of the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IÖR). I did my Bachelor of Architecture, from New Delhi, India, and an MSc. in Integrated Urban Development & Design from Bauhaus University, Germany.

Since my master’s thesis on how to analyse and improve liveability in slum upgradation projects, my focus has been on how to overcome the spatial and climate injustice that under-resourced and marginalised communities face worldwide. Therefore, in my doctoral research, I aim to enable and empower under-resourced communities to adapt to climate change through a transformative community-based adaptation process. For this, I am working on a web and mobile-based decision-support platform that facilitates participatory climate adaptation planning, implementation, and monitoring & evaluation. My approach, therefore, is transdisciplinary, attempting to bridge the knowledge gap between urban planners, government agencies, NGOs, climate experts and local action-takers.

As the Section-B spokesperson for the term 2022-23, I would like to take this bridging ahead and work on communicating the potential application of different Leibniz PhD candidates in “easy to understand” language for the public. I would also like to initiate and further the discussions on equity of opportunities for all.

contact: section_b@leibniz-phd.net


Franziska Krause


Section C Spokesperson
Leibniz-Institut für Lebensmittel-Systembiologie

I love to try different foods and the way our body perceives and processes food fascinates me since I was young. Consequently, I studied nutrition science at the University of Hohenheim, and Food Chemistry at the University of Stuttgart and Gießen. Early in my studies a talk about “Aroma Chemistry” caught my attention and since this, I am following the path of aroma, flavour and olfactometry.

During my master’s Thesis, I had my first encounter with the aroma of chocolate, and I loved the challenges of its production. For two years, I am completely immersed in the world of Cocoa and Chocolate, as I am doing my PhD at the Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich (Leibniz-LSB@TUM). 

My PhD aims to clarify the origin of off-flavour compounds in fermented cocoa. Sadly, many tons of cocoa must be discarded each year because of occurring off-flavours that make them unusable for further processing. I am fortunate to conduct trials on my own at cocoa plantations worldwide. Of changes in individual parameters during the fermentation, drying and storage processes, I produce my samples. Back in Germany, I analyse my samples for off-flavour compounds to find a connection between the changed parameters and the occurring off-flavour compounds.

During my time as a member of the Steering Committee, I would like to support and assist the PhDs of Section C Leibniz institutes. I aim to get an impression of the problems of the PhDs as well as of the achievements and “good working parts “in the institutes. To accomplish this, I believe, good communication and open ears are indispensable. Further, I would like to be involved in the N2-Event 2023 with the interesting and important topic “diversity”.

contact: section_c@leibniz-phd.net


Eleni Sachs


Section D Spokesperson
Leibniz-Institut für Interaktive Materialien

I was always interested in the natural sciences and their capability to explain how our world works. Chemistry has especially fascinated me, due to the capability of not only understanding the theoretical background of elemental interactions but also transferring the knowledge into practical applications and creating new materials. 

I completed my bachelor´s and master´s degree in chemistry at the University of Heidelberg and have specialised in the field of organic chemistry and especially organic electronics during that time. I could also broaden my professional and cultural horizon with a one-year stay at the university of Bristol and 6 months at the University of Cardiff. For my doctoral degree, I moved to Berlin to study photochemical switches. During my doctoral degree, my working group moved to Aachen and I became part of the Leibniz Network. My research focuses on new switches and their application in dynamic covalent chemistry. 

During my time as a spokesperson for Section D, I would like to especially focus on the prevention of power abuse and fairer working conditions. Connecting more between doctoral researchers and improving our working conditions, in my opinion, will not only lead to better scientific output but most importantly to fewer mental health issues and a development towards a healthy scientific community. We are not alone in the problems we experience every day and together we can make a change in the system.

contact: section_d@leibniz-phd.net


Robin Biermann


Section E Spokesperson
Leibniz-Institut für Gemüse- und Zierpflanzenbau

Driven by my passion for understanding how plants work, I studied biology at the RWTH Aachen University. At the time, my studies focused on plant physiology and molecular biology. After recognising the rising availability of data in life science and the myriad of unknown processes hidden within, I got interested in bioinformatics. This brought me to the Leibniz Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops (IGZ) and my PhD-project. As part of an international research consortium, my work contributes to understanding climate change-induced stresses in tomato plants and aims to identify potential tolerance mechanisms. Collaboration and communication are also crucial to one of my favourite board games, as it only allows to win as a team. 

In line with my research on climate change-induced stresses, I have an intrinsic interest in meliorating its effects. Therefore, I will try to support the WG sustainability during my time as section spokesperson. Also, I would like to raise awareness of the influence of (working) environments on personal development. Finally, I am looking forward to communicating and discussing your perspectives, problems, and ideas with the steering committee, as they carry our greatest assets.

contact: section_e@leibniz-phd.net