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Student Cancer Conference at Max Delbrück Center

The International Ph.D. Student Cancer Conference kicks off on June 12th at the Max Delbrück Center in Berlin-Buch. Doctoral students in the cancer field will get the chance to network and exchange ideas in an informal setting.

For the first time ever, the Max Delbrück Center in Buch is hosting the International Ph.D. Student Cancer Conference at campus Buch. This is the 17th iteration of the annual conference, which was founded by a group of top cancer research institutions.

At last year’s meeting in Cambridge U.K., conference organizers asked Guido Krähenbühl, a doctoral student in Professor Holger Gerhardt’s Integrative Vascular Biology Lab, to organize this year’s meeting. Krähenbühl studies the vasculature of gliomas, a type of brain tumor. We sat down with him to discuss why he agreed to such a demanding task and to learn what doctoral students can gain from attending the meeting.

Why did you agree to organize this year’s meeting?

Here everyone is approachable because we are all on the same level. People are less likely to feel inhibited to ask a question for fear of it being perceived as stupid.
Guido Krähenbühl
Guido Krähenbühl Organizer of the conference

As a Ph.D. representative, I was already very involved in community building here. I liked the idea of scaling these efforts up to an international and inter-institutional level. I am also very social and enjoy talking to people and networking. We're actually a team of 11 students. The participating institutes make it very clear that they want it to be a student-driven conference. On my own, I would not have been able to organize the conference at the Max Delbrück Center. It’s great that other people volunteered to help.

What do volunteers in the organizing committee gain?

They get experience on how to organize people. They learn how to get people from all the different institutes to connect and be responsible. For many, it’s nice to do something that’s not related to their research project. While the participating institutions pay for the doctoral students to attend, that doesn’t cover all the costs, so we also had to find a sponsor from industry. That’s also a great skill to learn.

What are the goals of the meeting?

I think it started as way for the different cancer centers to introduce themselves to doctoral students as places to potentially do a postdoc. It’s like “‘hey, these are all super cool institutes. Give us a try.’”

An opportunity to ask and learn

Is the conference limited to specific topics?

No. We try to keep it very open to everything from basic biology to epidemiology. It gives participants the opportunity to broaden their own horizons and also to consider whether they want to pursue a different direction after earning their Ph.D.

What do the participants from the Max Delbrück Center gain?

What has been super nice for me is meeting other doctoral students at the Max Delbrück Center studying cancer. It gives us the equivalent of a retreat. Now, if I have a question on a specific topic, I know who I can turn to here. I am looking forward to meeting many more during the conference, also from the other participating institutes.

How else does the conference benefit participants?

People have told me that since the meeting is so broad, they can gather ideas and ask questions from people working with different technologies than their own. They learn how they might apply them to their research. It gives us a really good opportunity to ask and learn, maybe even more so than during a regular conference where there are more senior scientists in attendance. Here everyone is approachable because we are all on the same level. People are less likely to feel inhibited to ask a question for fear of it being perceived as stupid.


Further information

The International Ph.D. Student Cancer Conference is taking place at the Max Delbrück Center at campus Buch from June 12th through June 14th, 2024. This year, 14 different cancer research institutes are represented and 140 participants have registered to attend. For more information on the program, see here: