Hintergrund Silent Heroes

Three silent heroines at the MDC

At the Buch campus’s summer party, MDC employees Marina Sitte, Signe Knespel, and Sabine Wagner were presented with the Silent Hero Award by the Society of Friends of the MDC. Each year, the award recognizes the commitment of employees who are hard at work behind the scenes.

Some things seem to take care of themselves. The dishes are clean, the samples are neatly organized, the mail is delivered without a hitch. But all that is actually thanks to the efforts of highly committed individuals working out of the public eye – the “silent heroes” of the MDC. At this year’s summer festivities, the MDC’s Society of Friends presented the Silent Hero Award to three such employees – the fourth time the award has been bestowed. Here, we present 2018’s award winners.

Cornelia Stärkel from the Lewin working group accepted the prize on behalf of Martina Sitte.


3rd Prize: Marina Sitte, kitchen staff member

People who like to lend a hand and really enjoy their work don’t go unnoticed. Marina Sitte has worked in the kitchen of Building 27 for the Central Services team since 2014. In her laudatory speech, Cornelia Stärkel of Gary Lewin’s research group told how Sitte’s excellent work ethic immediately caught her eye when she joined the MDC. That was five years ago, when Marina Sitte was still employed at the Campus Berlin-Buch management company.

Ms. Sitte is always cheerful, organized, punctual – and remarkably dedicated. If a colleague falls ill, she will stay at work longer or even postpone her vacation. If a laboratory flask or a beaker isn’t labeled, she makes sure this gets done and the lab equipment is placed in the correct basket. She thinks beyond the bounds of her own assigned tasks – for example, she collects old lab equipment that is no longer needed and passes it on to the campus’s Life Science Learning Lab, which can make good use of such items. And the regular fresh flowers in the kitchen are also thanks to Ms. Sitte.

Marina Sitte was not able to collect her award in person due to illness. Cornelia Stärkel passed on her very best to the award winner and hoped Ms. Sitte would soon be fit and well and back at work, where she is very much appreciated.

Signe Knispel (2nd from left) has been laboratory manager on campus for 35 years.

2nd Prize: Signe Knespel, technical assistant for various research groups

Signe Knespel is not listed on any MDC team website. And yet her name can be found on the list of authors in many of the Center’s scientific publications. Ms. Knespel works for many different groups, all of which greatly value her efforts. As a laboratory manager who has worked at the Buch campus for 35 years, she has helped many research groups get up and running. These have included distinguished laboratories such as that led by the MDC’s founding director Professor Detlef Ganten, and the one headed by Professors Klaus and Nikolaus Rajewsky.

For several years now, Ms. Knespel has been assisting new groups at the MDC, making sure that they are equipped with everything they need. Despite high levels of stress and time pressure, she always remains friendly and helpful. Simone Pflaume, the purchasing manager of the Investment, IT and Services group, gave the speech in honor of Ms. Knespel. She spoke of how the Purchasing Department benefited from excellent collaboration with Ms. Knespel: “She always does the groundwork for us so that we have sufficient time to conduct a proper competitive tendering procedure.” Simone Pflaume feels that many people at the MDC could learn a lot from watching Ms. Knespel.

Heike Wolke, admin. Board of the MDC congratulates Sabine Werner, technical assistant from Oliver Daumke's working group, on first prize (1st from left Peter Albiez, chairman of the society of friends of the MDC, 2nd from left Heike Wolke, admin. MDC board member, 3rd from left Oliver Daumke, group leader MDC and Sabine Werner)


1st Prize: Sabine Werner, technical assistant in the Structural Biology of Membrane-Associated Processes research group

Twelve years ago, Professor Oliver Daumke had a stroke of luck: he met Sabine Werner. In his laudatory speech, Prof. Daumke told the audience how five minutes into their conversation his destiny was sealed: “I knew I had found the right woman for me,” he said. At least in the professional sense – Prof. Daumke is a MDC research group head and Sabine Werner’s boss. That momentous conversation took place when Prof. Daumke was interviewing Ms. Werner to see if she would be a good fit as technical assistant for his research group. Ever since, she has proved that she is the perfect fit.

Sabine Werner learned her trade in the former East Germany. After initially training as a chemist, she studied pharmaceutical engineering in Leipzig in the mid-1970s. From 1980 she worked at the Buch campus, first as an engineer at the Central Institute for Cancer Research, one of the MDC’s predecessor organizations, and from 1991 as a research and technical assistant in Dr. Siegfried Scherneck’s research group. After Dr. Scherneck retired she switched over to Prof. Daumke’s group.

With remarkable foresight and reliability, Ms. Werner has kept Prof. Daumke’s laboratory in perfect condition for the past twelve years. She has helped countless doctoral candidates through their dissertations. And many other researchers at the MDC have benefited from Ms. Werner’s expertise as she hasn’t only produced proteins for her own research group, but for several others too.

That is probably why she was nominated for the Silent Hero Award by four separate groups. And this is a very fitting time to present her with the award. After 40 years working hard to help others, in July 2018 Ms. Werner is entering well-earned retirement. Prof. Daumke says she will be irreplaceable.