MDC-Weizmann Helmholtz International Research School for Imaging from the NAno to the MESo


Imaging is an indispensable component of biological research and personalized medicine. While creating opportunities for discovery in physical, computer, life sciences and medicine, the fundamental developments call for collaborative training and cross-domain research to advance and integrate new imaging technologies.

Imaging bridges a crucial space and time gap in life science and medicine: from atomic to anatomic objects and whole-body imaging, from picoseconds to years in population studies. New molecular and cellular insights obtained from imaging technologies should be integrated with data science into a coherent picture of tissues, organs and organisms, with a goal of prevention, early interception and treatment of disease.

To contribute to this, the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine; the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel; the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Charité-Universitätsmedizin, Berlin have joined forces to establish iNAMES - MDC-Weizmann Helmholtz International Research School (HIRS) for Imaging from the NAno to the MESo.


The mission of iNAMES is the training of outstanding young imaging and data scientists in a truly international research school, along with answering some of the most important biomedical research and clinical sciences challenges of our time. The multi-disciplinary environment provided by the participating institutions strongly stimulates investigations at the frontier of life sciences and technology development.

This joint effort brings together a growing understanding of the mechanisms by which diseases originate from defects at the molecular and cellular levels, with fundamental developments in techniques that characterize how the cells and their molecular machinery functions at the nanoscopic level, and with emerging non-invasive methods that relate the characterization of tissues and major organ systems at the mesoscopic level. Establishing these bridges is the fundamental vision for the iNAMES program.

Examples of cross-domain project topics, combining multiscale imaging with model based analysis, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

iNAMES program is complemented by the Helmholtz Imaging Platform (HIP), with the Max Delbrück Center being a HIP core, in collaboration with the DESY Hamburg and DKFZ Heidelberg. iNAMES and HIP are acting as springboards to intensify scientific interactions in imaging, data science, information technologies and digital engineering research fields. 

Research Focus

iNAMES doctoral projects are tandem projects between a partner in Berlin and Israel, encompassing a range of biomedical imaging areas and covering the entire imaging pipeline.  The contribution of two participating labs through complementary research study, models, techniques and technologies ensure highly innovative, interdisciplinary projects in the areas of:

  1. Development of next generation imaging technology, methodology, imaging markers and (nano)molecular probes, including MRI and high-end optical imaging

  2. Advancement of computational sciences, imaging data sciences, artificial intelligence, machine learning, biophysics and mathematical models

  3. Application of imaging and data science in molecular medicine, biology, life sciences and mechanistic biophysical research

  4. Swift translation into clinical imaging, large population imaging and public health sciences

The research program of iNAMES bridges topics in advanced physics, computational sciences and engineering, nurturing a uniquely trained generation of leaders in biomedical imaging.

This development of human capital will be supported by research activities relying on super-resolution molecular imaging, in vivo deep phenotyping, mass-spec imaging, in vivo ultrasound and computer assisted tomography, two-photon microscopy, physiometabolic probing, in vivo electrolyte mapping with MRI, ultrahigh field MR, diagnostic imaging and guidance of therapy. Big-data sciences, image processing, predictive analysis approaches, deep machine learning, artificial intelligence, large scale population imaging, systems biology, systems medicine and clinical science groups (cardiology, neurology, oncology, immunology) will also be used to forge links between bioimaging and personalized medicine.

iNAMES Research School

iNAMES program provides doctoral students with the educational framework required to perform independent, highly interdisciplinary research. We do not only provide our students with a peer network and practical scientific training, but also offer an outstanding opportunity to actively participate in the international scientific community, all ensuring a timely completion of the dissertation. Our overarching goal is to equip our graduates with the critical skills essential for life-long learning, enabling them to successfully compete in any international job market.

PhD Program

The focus of the iNAMES Research School lies in the development of an independent research project in biomedical imaging technology, data science and imaging applications, supported by an international tandem team of mentors from partner institutions from Germany and Israel.

The iNAMES program framework includes the following key elements:

  • PhD research is carried out within a joint project, closely supervised by a tandem German-Israeli team of research mentor/ co-mentor
  • Personalized research training in a collegial environment, characterized by scientific excellence and innovation
  • iNAMES-specific scientific program including annual symposia and regular workshops, which provide a forum for networking and exchange of ideas
  • Individual Development Plan to support personal career goals by identifying the specific needs and by promoting and assessing the acquisition of competences
  • Access to the well-established program of Helmholtz Skill Courses, supporting further interdisciplinary networking within the Helmholtz Association



The iNAMES PhD researchers are mentored by a tandem of a primary mentor and a co-mentor from partner institutions in Germany and Israel. The mentors support the preparation and implementation of the research project, assist in developing the Individual Development Plan (IDP), introduce to their own professional networks and advise on future plans and career goals. The faculty members of the iNAMES School are highly experienced and committed to provide academic guidance and and support to students career development.

iNAMES PhD researchers present their PhD project annually to the Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC), which accompanies them from the first presentation of the research proposal to the preparation of the doctoral thesis. The primary mentor and a co-mentor, together with an additional scientist, form a Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC).

Research visits and mobility


International and cross-disciplinary mobility of scientists between partner sites is of crucial importance for the success of the iNAMES School. Joint PhD projects are carefully set-up in such a way as to enable two participating labs to contribute through complementary research study/ models/ techniques/ technologies, ensuring highly innovative, inter-disciplinary projects.

The iNAMES Research School supports short-term stays to learn particular techniques (e.g. for 2-4 weeks) as well as extended stays (e.g. to work on research sub-projects in collaboration with a partner lab, for up to 6 months).

Each iNAMES student is expected to spend at least 2 weeks a year in the partner lab abroad.

To further increase the visibility of iNAMES within the research community, all PhD researchers are encouraged to network and present their research at international conferences, supported with dedicated iNAMES travel and training grants.



PhD researchers are fully funded through an initial 3-year employment contract with the MDC. iNAMES program provides funding of the PhD researcher for a duration of three years, with a possible fourth year needing to be financed by the first supervisor of the PhD thesis, in accordance with recommendation of the Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC) members.

Salaries are competitive to national standards, according to 65% TVöD 13 (monthly net payment of approximately 1600 EUR). Health and social insurance are included in the contract. In many cases, contracts are extended for an additional year. All PhD researchers are expected to complete their doctoral research and thesis in 4 years. The university tuition fees per semester are approximately 350 EUR, and include public transportation ticket.


    Training & Events

    This strategic MDC-Weizmann Helmholtz International Research School alliance offers an advanced, structured and integrated training environment, with first class research opportunities for PhD students, with a strong focus on biomedical imaging, data science, and a high interdisciplinary relevance.

    Upon completion of the iNAMES training, the graduates:

    • will have outstanding expertise in imaging modalities, imaging applications, image analysis
    • are experts for the design of molecular, and cellular imaging assays for the study of biological systems
    • are ready to contribute to the growth and development of physical or computer sciences
    • will progress life sciences and healthcare
    • have a strong foundation for transition into a position as an independent researchers in the field
    • have developed skills in scientific reasoning and logic, problem solving, interpersonal communication
    • are educated in principles of responsible research and innovation
    • are well versed in research integrity, ethics, and equity
    • are ready to take leadership positions in industry and academia
    • will fill the gap of severe shortage of biomedical imaging and data science experts

    Scientific Development


    The iNAMES scientific program is designed to provide PhD candidates with advanced training on topics of state-of-the-art imaging and data science technologies

    A spectrum of iNAMES training activities includes PhD lecture series, on-site courses, e-learning courses, hands-on practical seminars with imaging instrumentation, days in the clinic initiatives, and various events, such as joint international PhD retreats and summer/winter schools.

    To further increase the visibility of iNAMES within the research community, all PhD researchers are encouraged to network and present their research at international conferences, supported with dedicated iNAMES travel and training grants. The iNAMES school also organizes hands-on sessions at imaging centers, clinical visits to our clinical partners (Charité and Sheba Medical Center), company visits (e.g. to Siemens, Bruker, Nikon, Zeiss and local start-ups) to foster practical competencies and the entrepreneurship spirit of our PhD researchers.

    Key Competences


    Becoming an expert in a specific scientific domain or technology is an important objective, but not the only aspect of the iNAMES training program. With a growing number of PhDs following careers outside of academia, it is crucial to foster a wider range of personal skills and to introduce relevant career pathways as early as possible.

    Our PhD researchers have the opportunity to take responsibility for their professional growth by developing and implementing an Individual Development Plan (IDP). This includes a research plan, research-related training activities, personal skills assessment and progress plan, as well as open science activities.

    The IDP allows the PhD students to tailor and monitor their own the academic and personal development progress and includes both short- and long-term goals. It will be adapted over the course of the PhD, particularly as a part of the progress review at the annual meetings of the TAC.

    A Peer Mentor Group is introduced as an additional measure to support career development of iNAMES PhD researchers. It consists of iNAMES PhD researchers and is led by the program coordinator. Its main function is to offer an interactive peer support mechanism to monitor development progress, using the IDP instrument. The Peer Mentor Group provides a platform for open discussions on professional and personal skills needs, peer advice on career options, matters of work/ life balance, and facilitates the integration of iNAMES researchers visiting from partner institutions.

    To actively promote the all-around development of the PhD researchers, the iNAMES personal skills program builds on the already existing comprehensive program of courses offered by the Helmholtz Association, and dedicated courses organized at the MDC.

    Career Orientation Workshops are offered to advanced the PhD researchers, informing them about the available career choices and assisting with decisions about their next professional steps.

    Technology Transfer Training is essential in preparing our students for careers both in and outside of academia. The MDC and WIS Technology Transfer Offices offer regular courses and workshops on IPR, patenting, avenues for commercialization of research, how to translate research into a product, how to translate basic research into realworld clinical applications, etc. 

    Extracurricular and student-organized activities, such as organization of scientific events, teaching at the Life Science Learning Lab “Gläsernes Labor” on the Berlin-Buch campus, participation in public outreach activities during, e.g., “The Long Night of Sciences”, organization of social events, etc. also contributes to the development of the students’ professional skills. These activities are further facilitating the integration of international students, creating a particularly welcoming and lively atmosphere on the campus, and providing students with the open-mindedness, inter-cultural competence, and adaptability and flexibility to successfully meet the challenges of a demanding job market.

    According to the training curriculum of the Berlin universities and the MDC Graduate Program, a minimum of 30 credits (C) has to be collected through the program training activities, over the course of the PhD studies.



    iNAMES colloquium and symposia

    The core training events specifically designed and developed in the framework of iNAMES Program include the iNAMES colloquium and the annual iNAMES symposia, organized alternating between Berlin and Rehovot.

    These events gather a wider scientific and industrial community, stimulating discussion, collaboration and networking between the iNAMES PhD researchers, faculty, and representatives of industry partners.

    More experienced PhD researchers present their newest methods, providing insight into the state-of the art technology developments to less experienced researchers, while at the same time they gain valuable presentation skills and teaching experience.

    A “science café” open to the general public supplements the scientific program of annual symposia, providing a platform for science communication and outreach.

    Summer and winter school

    Furthermore, faculty members and PhD researchers come together at annual summer/ winter schools – dedicated workshops on current advanced topics in imaging and data science. To minimize travel time for participants, networking workshops will be organized in conjunction with the annual symposia.

    International PhD Retreat

    PhD retreats bring together doctoral researchers from partner institutions, providing opportunities to network, exchange ideas and experiences, brainstorm, establish collaborations and form friendships. PhD researchers are actively involved in the organization of these meetings, thus developing their organization and project management skills.



    iNAMES program is excited to greet its first PhD students in Spring 2021!




    Visualizing IFNg induced changes in the tissue and defining its toxicity
    Mentor: Thomas Blankenstein, MDC
    Co-mentor: Steffen Jung, WIS

    Exploring the mechanism of dynamin molecular machines at high structural and temporal resolution
    Mentor: Oliver Daumke, MDC
    Co-mentor: Hagen Hofmann, WIS

    Optical imaging and activation of thermal perception
    Mentor: James Poulet, MDC
    Co-mentor: Ofer Yizhar, WIS

    Assessment and system analysis of the tubular volume fraction using magnetic resonance imaging and intravital two-photon microscopy of the kidney
    Mentor: Thoralf Niendorf, MDC
    Co-mentor: Lucio Frydman, WIS

    Development, implementation and validation of thermal magnetic resonance radiofrequency technology: A new instrument to define the role of temperature in biological systems and disease
    Mentor: Thoralf Niendorf, MDC
    Co-mentor: Lucio Frydman, WIS

    Where is the pain in the brain?
    Mentor: Thoralf Niendorf, MDC
    Co-mentor: TBA; WIS


    Ex vivo imaging of cell-cell interactions in protein homeostasis and lung cancer
    Mentor: Gaetano Gargiulo, MDC
    Co-mentor: Yifat Merbl, WIS

    Computational methods to achieve real-time whole brain imaging in behaving animals
    Mentor: Kyle Harrington, MDC
    Co-mentor: Takashi Kawashima, WIS

    Advanced molecular MRI for probing and mapping early neuroinflammatory activity in-vivo
    Mentor: Thoralf Niendorf / Sonia Waiczies, MDC
    Co-mentor: Amnon Bar-Shir, WIS

    Combining single and ensemble-molecule imaging methods to visualize cellular membrane interactions of the human amyloid protein, alpha-synuclein
    Mentor: Melissa Birol, MDC
    Co-mentor: Phil Selenko, WIS

    Imaging organotypic chimeric human-murine brain slices as model system for neurodegeneration
    Mentor: Volker Siffrin, Charité
    Co-mentor: Michal Schwartz, WIS

    Whiter matter fingerprinting of neuroinflammation and demyelination
    Mentor: Friedemann Paul, Charité
    Co-mentor: Assaf Tal, WIS

    Future prospects

    Stretch-induced growth in sensory neurons. Imaging transduction
    Mentor: Gary Lewin, MDC, Charité
    Co-mentor: Mike Fainzilber, WIS

    Mechanisms of DNA break formation and repair during immunoglobulin class switch recombination
    Mentor: Michela di Virgilio, MDC
    Co-mentor: Ziv Shulman, WIS

    Integration of multi-modality renal imaging with image analysis and data science
    Mentor: Thoralf Niendorf, MDC
    Co-mentor: Lucio Frydman, WIS

    iNAMES faculty

    The joint German-Israeli faculty includes distinguished scientists whose scientific expertise covers a broad spectrum of modern imaging, computational and life sciences.

    The international faculty represents a healthy mix of junior (45%) and senior scientists (55%) from multiple disciplines, ranging from imaging, physics, mathematics, computational sciences, bioengineering, biochemistry and pharmacology to biology, molecular medicine, systems medicine, cardiology, neurosciences, epidemiology and public health. Female scientists comprise 38% of the members of the faculty, while the iNAMES board includes 50% female spokespersons. 20% of the faculty are MDs, which provides an excellent framework for PhD/MD tandems and translational projects.

    All members of the iNAMES faculty share in common: proven excellence, unbound curiosity, collaborative spirit, multidisciplinarity, and a thirst for translating knowledge into benefits for humanity and training the next generation of experts in biomedical imaging and data sciences.

    Join us!

    To alleviate the surging incidence of the world’s deadliest diseases, the development of new strategies for early detection and treatment is of utmost relevance. 

    This can only proceed by deepening our understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms and pathophysiological processes, calling in turn for new ways to visualize complex biological systems and to image disease states at various length- and time-scales. 

    If you are enthusiastic and passionate about tackling these challenges, join us!

    We offer:

    • Excellent scientific, international and supportive environment 
    • Individual PhD supervision & dual mentoring by the experts from two leading institutions in the field, supported by the thesis committee
    • Research visits and short-term (1-4 weeks) or long-term (up to 12 months) exchange stays at partner institution abroad
    • Annual symposia and research winter & summer schools, as well as participation in PhD retreats & networking social events
    • Access to state-of-the-art infrastructure & core facilities
    • Regular lectures, journal clubs & seminar series 
    • Advanced scientific, research-related & methods training
    • Framework program for personal & career development
    • Travel grants for external courses & conferences

    Who are we looking for? 

    To apply, a master’s degree (or equivalent) in physics, mathematics, computer science, data science, biophysics (biomedical) engineering, biology, bioinformatics, molecular medicine, or a related field, is required. You should hold or expect to obtain your degree not later than four months after the onsite interview week in Berlin (see below for the exact interview dates). Please check further details of your Eligibility for application here.

    Details on the Recruitment process can be found here. Please make sure to check the FAQ section, as well.

    Please note: due to the COVID-19 epidemiological measures and the unpredictable development of the situation, the timeline of the iNAMES recruitment, as well as its format, is subject to changes.

    How to apply? 

    iNAMES recruitment process is a part of recruitment for the International PhD Program at the MDC Berlin.

    Applications are accepted exclusively via our online Application portal. Applications via email can unfortunately not be accepted. Detailed information about the application process, including Application manual, are available here

    The next iNAMES recruitment will be held within the MDC Fall 2022 recruitment round.

    Applications will be open May - July 2022.




    For general inquiries, please contact:

    Dr. Sanja Drakulic

    Phone: 030 9406-4254

    Max-Delbrück-Centrum for Molecular Medicine (MDC) 
    Robert-Rössle-Str. 10 
    13092 Berlin, Germany


    For any science-related questions, please contact one of the iNAMES spokespersons:


    Thoralf Niendorf, PhD (Max-Delbrück Center)

    Jeanette Schulz-Menger, MD (Charité)


    Lucio Frydman, PhD (Weizmann Institute of Science)

    Michal Neeman, PhD (Weizmann Institute of Science)