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German-Israeli Helmholtz International Research School for Imaging from the NAno to the MESo


Imaging is an indispensable component of biological research and personalized medicine. While this creates ever increasing opportunities for discovery in physical sciences, computer sciences, life sciences and medicine, the fundamental developments call for collaborative training and cross-domain research frameworks.

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

To contribute to this goal, the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine; the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel; the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Charité-University Medicine, Berlin have joined forces to establish a Helmholtz International Research School (HIRS) for Imaging from the NAno to the MESo (iNAMES). These efforts are 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 sciences, information technologies and digital engineering research fields.


Utilizing a superior environment and infrastructure, the mission of iNAMES is the training of outstanding young imaging/translational medicine researchers in a truly international research school. 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 spanning a range of disciplines, length scales, timescales and functional systems based on emerging physical, computational and biochemical tools, is the fundamental vision for the iNAMES program.

Research Focus

  • Development of next generation imaging technologies
  • Advancement of computational sciences, imaging data sciences, artificial intelligence, machine learning, biophysics and mathematical models
  • Application of imaging and data science in molecular medicine, biology, life sciences and mechanistic biophysical research
  • Swift translation into clinical imaging, large population imaging and public health sciences

iNAMES Research School

iNAMES program provides doctoral students with the educational framework required to perform interdisciplinary research, and to place their work in a larger life science context and in the general public’s perception of science. 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.

The iNAMES framework includes the following key elements and features:

  • 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 faculty members of the iNAMES School are highly experienced and committed to provide academic guidance and and support to students career development. The iNAMES PhD researchers are mentored by a tandem of a primary mentor and a co-mentor. 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.

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 1-4 weeks) as well as extended stays (e.g. to work on research sub-projects in collaboration with a partner lab, for up to 12 months).

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 German-Israeli 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 training


    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 at different scales

    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.

    Personal skills and career development


    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 include the iNAMES colloquium, and the annual iNAMES symposia, organized alternating between Berlin and Rehovot.

    These face-to-face meetings, complemented by networking events within a wider scientific and industrial community, stimulate discussion, collaboration, and the building of a broader network between iNAMES PhD researchers, faculty, and representatives of industry partners.

    More experienced PhD researchers present their newest methods, thereby providing insight into the state-of the art technology developments to less experienced researchers, while at the same time gaining valuable presentation skills training 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 for and exchange with society at large.

    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, and at the same location as 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 Fall 2020!

    The exact list of MDC and WIS research labs participating in Fall 2020 recruitment round, together with available projects, will be updated and published soon.


    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 60% female spokespersons. 20% of the faculty are MDs, which provides an excellent framework for PhD/MD tandems and for 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.


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

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

    Atomic resolution insights into post-translational modification dynamics during cellular DNA repair by combining in-cell NMR spectroscopy and advanced optical imaging
    Mentor: Michela Di Virgilio, MDC
    Co-mentor: Phil Selenko, WIS

    Regulation of cell intrinsic and non-cell autonomous protein homeostasis in lung cancer
    Mentor: Gaetano Gargiulo, MDC
    Co-mentor: Yifat Merbl, WIS

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

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

    Development of enabling RF technology to study the role of temperature in biological systems and disease with thermal magnetic resonance
    Mentor: Thoralf Niendorf, MDC

    The exact list of MDC and WIS research labs participating in Fall 2020 recruitment round, together with available projects, will be updated soon.



    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)

    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 biannual 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

    Calls for applications are open twice a year, for Spring and Fall recruitment round. For approximate timeline of the Recruitment process, please see below. Please note that these are approximate dates, and they may vary from year to year. For the exact dates, follow the announcements on our page.

    Spring round

    • Call open: from November to January
    • Online interviews: in March
    • Onsite interview week: in April 
    • Starting date: latest 4 months from the onsite interview week (August same year)

    Fall round

    • Call open: from May to July
    • Online interviews: in September
    • Onsite interview week: in October
    • Starting date: latest 4 months from the onsite interview week (February next year)