Naked Mole Rats

Communicating research in tandem

Two science communications projects of the Max Delbrück Center have received funding from the Stiftung Charité. About 100,000 Euro will go to Gary Lewin and illustrator Kat Menschik for a book on unusual animals in research, and to Russ Hodge and Jennifer von Schlichting for a board game on gene expression.

Stiftung Charité has made its first funding decisions in its newly launched program to improve science communication. With the "science x media tandems," the foundation, established by entrepreneur Johanna Quandt, developed a funding instrument to support projects in which and media creators are equally represented. Experts from both fields were invited to apply as a team with a project that promises to bring a new level of quality to the communication of biomedical content. From the large number of proposals submitted, the Stiftung Charité selected seven tandems whose projects will receive a total funding of almost half a million euros in the coming months. Two of these tandems come from the Max Delbrück Center and are both coordinated by science writer Russ Hodge.

A book about extraordinary animals

"The response to the call for proposals has clearly exceeded our expectations and shows that there is an enormous willingness to rethink science communication in a new and different way, particularly in light of the experience with the COVID-19 pandemic," says Dr. Jörg Appelhans, Chairman of the Stiftung Charité, about the first round of calls for proposals.

At its spring meeting, the Board of Trustees approved the following tandems based on funding recommendations from a specially appointed selection committee:

  • Professor Gary Lewin, a neurobiologist and research group leader at the Max Delbrück Center, award-winning illustrator Kat Menschik and Russ Hodge will co-author a book entitled "What Extraordinary Animals Teach Us About Being Human" The book will convey insights from work with laboratory animals such as the naked mole rat in both scientific and artistic terms. The team has students in mind as the primary audience and aims to promote the book through readings and school visits, among other activities. The project will receive a total of 70,000 Euro in funding from July 1, 2023, to the end of February 2024. Russ Hodge, science writer at the Max Delbrück Center, initiated the project and will play a significant role.
  • "GENE EXPRESS" is also aimed at younger audiences. The board game intends to familiarize laypersons with gene expression as a central concept in molecular biology. It is being developed by Jennifer von Schlichting, a PhD student at the Institute of Pathology of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, and Russ Hodge, in collaboration with renowned board game author Professor Steffen Bogen. The team will receive a total of 34,000 Euro in funding until the end of 2023.

Both projects were developed in the Science Communication Teacher Training (SCOTT) program offered by Russ Hodge to early career researchers at the Max Delbrück Center.

Additional tandem funding

  • Professor Meryam Schouler-Ocak, a senior physician at the Psychiatric University Clinic of the Charité at St. Hedwig Hospital, will collaborate with TV presenter and reporter Dilek Üsük (RBB, ZDF, among others) to establish an educational and support service focusing on mental health. The initiative aims to reach the vulnerable and hard-to-reach group of people of Turkish origin in Germany through participatory videos and social media.
  • Professor Odette Wegwarth, the Heisenberg Professor for Medical Risk Competence and Evidence-Based Decision Making at Charité, and freelance science journalist Silke Jäger will work together to develop an openly accessible online platform called "science x media Risk Booster." This interactive tool will assist media professionals in understanding the quality of scientific studies more efficiently and effectively. It will also help them communicate uncertainties clearly in their articles.
  • Dr. Daniel Pach from the Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology, and Health Economics at Charité, along with Jörg Hunke (Berliner Zeitung, among others), aim to enhance science communication. The tandem will design and offer seminars to strengthen the quality and evidence-based reporting on topics related to digital medicine.
  • Professor Lars Bullinger, Director of the Charité Clinic for Hematology, Oncology, and Tumor Immunology, and Sascha Karberg (Head of Department at the Tagesspiegel) will provide live reports on the everyday life of cancer research and therapy under the theme "It doesn't work without genes." Through research, clinical observations, and patients' narratives, they will illustrate the intricacies of translational medicine.
  • Professor Moritz Queisner, Junior Professor in Surgery at Charité, and Frédéric Eyl, Graduate Designer and Managing Director of TheGreenEyl, are collaborating on a science trail that allows visitors to engage with the latest findings and techniques in surgery using augmented reality technology. This interactive exhibition, installed in the research building The Simulated Human (Si-M), will provide multidimensional spatial information and be open to all interested citizens.

Each tandem will have several months to work intensively on their projects and will receive the necessary resources and freedom through the funding provided. The science x media tandems represent the inaugural program in the new funding priority called "Open Life Science." The Stiftung Charité aims to enhance the comprehensibility and accessibility of life sciences in Berlin to a wider audience and strengthen trust in medical professionals, primarily through the interaction between science and the media. The announcement for the "science x media Tandems 2024" will take place in September.


Further information



Dr. André Lottmann
Stiftung Charité
+49 (0)30 450 570 - 509

About Stiftung Charité


Stiftung Charité was founded in 2005 by the entrepreneur Johanna Quandt (1926 – 2015). It is an independent private non-profit foundation. Stiftung Charité promotes Berlin as a world-leading center for the life sciences. It supports Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and other life science organizations with funding programs in three key areas: Innovation, Research, and Open Life Science.


Max Delbrück Center


The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (Max Delbrück Center) is one of the world’s leading biomedical research institutions. Max Delbrück, a Berlin native, was a Nobel laureate and one of the founders of molecular biology. At the locations in Berlin-Buch and Mitte, researchers from some 70 countries study human biology – investigating the foundations of life from its most elementary building blocks to systems-wide mechanisms. By understanding what regulates or disrupts the dynamic equilibrium of a cell, an organ, or the entire body, we can prevent diseases,

diagnose them earlier, and stop their progression with tailored therapies. Patients should benefit as soon as possible from basic research discoveries. The Max Delbrück Center therefore supports spin-off creation and participates in collaborative networks. It works in close partnership with Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin in the jointly run Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) at Charité, and the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK). Founded in 1992, the Max Delbrück Center today employs 1,800 people and is funded 90 percent by the German federal government and 10 percent by the State of Berlin.