The autumn school Merseburg – Immune system for beginners (and of course refreshers)

To be honest, when in spring 2015 an email from the cluster dropped in our mailbox, offering ten IITB travel awards for the autumn school of the German Society for Immunology (DGfI), we weren´t familiar with the concept of the autumn school at all. Getting more information about the program and the speakers from the autumn school, we got excited and decided to apply.

The autumn school takes place every year in the “Ständehaus” in Merseburg (photo by S. Lambing)

But let´s start with some general information: the autumn school is intended as an introductory training course targeting beginners and refreshers from academia, clinics and industry who work in the field of immunology. The school takes place annually in October in Merseburg  (a small town with 35,000 inhabitants in Saxony-Anhalt) and lectures are held in an ancient building, the Ständehaus.

Last year, the autumn school started on a Sunday evening with a welcome lecture by the vice-president of the DGfI (German Society for Immunology), Hans-Martin Jäck, followed by an entertaining introduction to immunology. In total we were 64 students and PhD students and 14 post-docs and after a delicious dinner everyone introduced themselves and their research topics. Thus, we spent the whole evening getting to know each other! Networking and getting to know other participants, the speakers and the organizers was a central element of the autumn school. During the week we attended 26 lectures spread over 5 days, introducing immunology but also giving insight into up-to-date research topics. After the lectures we had lively discussions with the speakers which continued over coffee breaks and meals. Looking back this was definitely one of the best things of the autumn school.

Students could present and discuss their research topics and results during vivid poster sessions and on top of this, 8 students were selected to give an oral presentation of their data. For the first time the organizers introduced „science round table“ discussions on hot topics such as translational immunology or CRISPR/Cas9 in small groups lead by two or three experts in these fields. Apart from the busy program we also took a guided tour of the famous Merseburg cathedral and had a nice farewell party on our last evening.

(by S. Lambing)

To sum up, we can highly recommend participating in the autumn school, especially if you are a new PhD student in your first year.  Nevertheless, for more advanced PhD students it is also a great chance to think out of the box and see the bigger picture. The autumn school gives you the chance to connect with other PhD students from the same research field, refresh your immunology knowledge and also discuss your own research.


If we caught your interest (and hopefully we did) – the 8th autumn school will be held from 9-14 October 2016 and application is open until July 15th.


Also this year the Cluster offers fellowships for the autumn school. Therefore, you can apply until July 8th (


Author: Klara Höning