Silent Heroes 2020

Heroes behind the scenes

For the sixth time, the MDC has granted awards to its “silent heroes.” This year’s recipients are committed staff members whose hard work out of the public eye makes a significant contribution to the smooth running of the research conducted at the MDC.

Many different things have to come together to allow top-level research to take place. That was made very clear during this year’s Silent Hero Award ceremony at the MDC. First place was awarded to technical assistant Astrid Schiche, one of those crucial individuals without whom no laboratory could function. Two second prizes were awarded as there were two staff members with the same number of points: IT officer Mathias Decker and facility management officer Reinhard Gaede. Third place went to early-career researcher Ella Bahry, who has been running weekly yoga courses for her colleagues at no cost for the past three years.

“The Silent Hero Award is important because it shows that many people at the MDC do look beyond their own noses; they notice their colleagues’ dedication and want to know that it is appreciated,” said Dana Lafuente, head of the Staff Development Department and representative of the MDC Society of Friends. A total of 117 nominations for 16 employees were submitted for the Silent Hero Awards, and a jury of seven Society of Friends members had the task of deciding who would win an award, according to a points system. The first prize is €500, with €300 and €200 going to second and third place respectively.

Silent Heroes 2020: Reinhard Gaede, Astrid Schiche and Mathias Decker

Yoga, IT assistance, and smooth facility operations

Ella Bahry, recipient of the third prize, is a PhD student in Stefan Preibisch’s lab. However, she is not only a scientist – she is also a certified yoga instructor. “We are very grateful to Ella for teaching a total of 120 hours of yoga classes free of charge over the past three years,” said PhD student Marta Bastos de Oliveira in her laudatory speech. She explained that the lessons are relaxing and aid stress reduction, but are challenging as well. Also, she said, they help strengthen cohesion among the MDC community.

In her laudatory speech for second-place holder Reinhard Gaede of the Technical Facility Management Department, MDC Mitte/BIMSB site manager Victoria Malchin emphasized the prize winner’s comprehensive store of knowledge and tireless commitment. “On my first day as site manager, he showed me the building’s technical facilities that are so important for the researchers’ work,” said Malchin. “For me, he represents the many good spirits who work quietly and unobserved behind the scenes. Today I want the entire department to be recognized for the tremendous service that it renders every day.”

In his speech lauding the other second-place holder Mathias Decker, Ivo Bodurski had this to say of his colleague: “Mathias gets around everywhere and is happy to share his knowledge and experience with others.” Anyone who didn’t know Mathias had clearly never had any problems with their hardware, he joked. With his calm, unruffled manner and good listening ability, Mathias has been an indispensable staff member for, among others, the GNC study and new research groups.

“Now is the time to give something back”

The first-place Silent Hero Award went to a staff member who will be retiring soon. Astrid Schiche is a technical assistant in the ECRC research group of Professor Friedrich C. Luft, who also gave the laudatory speech. “In scientific research you need people who are really good sports – and that’s what we have in Astrid,” he said. The prize winner had been nominated by many of her colleagues at MDC, including seven PIs. Schiche has worked for MDC for over 25 years and specializes in animal experiments. Many of the nomination statements emphasized how Schiche’s work has been indispensable for many groups at the MDC. Numerous study groups have regularly profited from her impressive knowledge and skills, many years’ experience, and very friendly manner. “Astrid’s work enables us scientists to sparkle with ERC grants and other laurels,” one study group said in its nomination statement. “Now is the time to give something back and show her how important she is for all of us – professionally and personally.” And that is precisely why the MDC’s Silent Hero Award was created.

Text: Wiebke Peters