Spring School Ettal: Understanding the Immune System as a whole System

The Spring School 2015 took place in Ettal (photo: K. Höning)

Last Spring I found myself very focused on my own very specific PhD topic. Nevertheless, I was curious about the latest findings and questions in other fields in immunology. Filled with the wish to hear about other topics and to meet up with PhD students and postdocs from all over Germany and from other countries, I participated in the Spring School organized by the German Society for Immunology.


Speaking in numbers the Spring School on Immunology was 6 fascinating days, with 27 talks and speakers as well as intense question & answer sessions. We were 60 participants from 8 different countries and enjoyed numerous poster sessions, discussions and networking as well as a monastery tour and a trip to an art museum.


Beyond, we met up with many fascinating researchers in a very familiar atmosphere and had room to discuss questions and ideas in small groups.  To name only some of the highlights: the opening lecture was given by the T-cell expert Mark Davis from Stanford. Davis pointed out to understand the immune system as a whole system and reminded us to: “Not specialize into details, while forgetting about all the remaining rest.” Further, Bob Jack explained from an evolutional point of view why our immune system actually is so horribly complex. Fritz Melchers spoke about B-lymphocyte development and Ronen Alon from the Weizmann Institute in Israel introduced his model system to analyze leukocyte migration through endothelial barriers. I met and discussed with Diether Recktenwald, who was involved in building the first flow cytometer, and Peter Palese from the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, an expert on adenovirus vaccination. We heard about the role of autophagy in immunity, about high-throughput approaches to study RNA-protein interactions or DNA and histone modifications as a functional landscape, and much.


Overall, the Spring School was an intense and inspiring week. We dealt with a broad spectrum of questions in immunology and having experienced this fantastic atmosphere I certainly can recommend participating in this event. The interaction with professors, group leaders and other PhD students helps building a network, strengthen the ability to discuss your data and your knowledge about immunology.

The application deadline for next years spring school is the 15th of November.


Author: Klara Höning