Plenary Speakers

Prof. Dr Ada Yonath

Nobel laureate (Chemistry), Director of Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structures and a professor at Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel

Ada Yonath focuses on protein biosynthesis, on antibiotics paralyzing this process, on the global problems relating to antibiotic resistance, on attempts to design novel antibiotics and on the origin of life.

She graduated from Hebrew University (1964), earned her PhD from Weizmann Institute (1968) and completed postdoctoral studies at Mellon-Institute and MIT, USA. In 1971 she established the first biological-crystallography laboratory in Israel, which was the only lab of this kind in the country for almost a decade. Since then, she has been a faculty member at the Weizmann Institute, where she is also the Director of Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structures. In parallel, in 1978 she spent a Sabbatical year at the University of Chicago, and during 1980-2004 she headed the Max-Planck-Research-Unit for Ribosome Structure in Hamburg while collaborating with Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin.

Among others, she is a member of the US-National-Academy-of-Sciences; Israel Academy of Sciences-and-Humanities; German Academy for Sciences (Leopoldina); European Molecular Biology Organization; Pontifical (Vatican) Academy of Sciences; Korean Academy of Sciences and Technology. She holds honorary doctorates from over 20 universities worldwide, in USA, Latin America, Europe and the Far East.

Her awards include the Israel Prize; Linus Pauling Gold Medal; Albert Einstein World Award for excellence; UNESCO-L’Oréal Award for Woman in science; Wolf Prize; the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize; Erice Peace Prize; Indian Prime-minister medal; Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Prof. Dr Pauline Gagnon

Retired Senior Research Scientist, Indiana University

I was born in Chicoutimi in Quebec, Canada in 1955. After teaching physics for a few years in local colleges, I moved to California, where, I first studied at San Francisco State University then completed a Ph.D. in particle physics at the University of California in Santa Cruz in 1993. I then started my research activities at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics located near Geneva, with Carleton University then became Senior Research Scientist at Indiana University until I retired in 2016. Within the ATLAS Collaboration, I searched for dark matter in the decays of the Higgs boson and for hypothetical dark photons.

From 2011 until 2014, I worked within the CERN Communication group, writing blogs for the Quantum Diaries and answering questions from numerous media worldwide. Explaining particle physics in simple and accessible terms became my trademark. Since 2013, I have given more than a hundred presentations to large audiences in nine countries on particle physics, dark matter, diversity issues as well as on the contributions of Mileva Marić Einstein to her husband’s work. I wrote a popular science book covering all these topics entitled Who Cares about Particle Physics: Making Sense of the Higgs boson, the LHC and CERN to reach even larger audiences since I think particle physics is too much fun to leave it only to physicists! Since 2014, I live happily in Germany with my wife.

Prof. Dr Elisabeth Kelan →Read Abstract

Professor of Leadership at Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University, England

Elisabeth Kelan, PhD, is a Professor of Leadership at Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University, England. Her award-winning research focuses on gender and leadership, generations in organizations, leadership and diversity and inclusion.

She has published two books (Rising Stars – Developing Millennial Women as Leaders and Performing Gender, both with Palgrave) and numerous peer-reviewed articles in academic journals and practitioner reports. She is the series editor for the Routledge Studies in Gender and Organizations book series, an associate editor of the journal Gender, Work and Organization and she is on the editorial board of the British Journal of Management and Management Learning.

The Times featured her as one of the management thinkers to watch and she has been named an HR Most Influential Thinker by HR Magazine. She has provided thought-leadership to businesses and international organizations and her research is regularly reported in the media. She sits on the advisory board of the Women’s Empowerment Principles, a partnership initiative of UN Women and the UN Global Compact. She was a British Academy Mid-Career Fellow and a Dahlem International Network Professorship for Gender Studies at Freie Universität Berlin.

Elisabeth Kelan held appointments at King’s College London, London Business School, the London School of Economics and Political Science and Zurich University. She holds a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Twitter: @EKelan ; Website:

Prof. Dr Olfa Kanoun

Professor of Measurement and Sensor Technology at TU Chemnitz

Olfa Kanoun studied electrical engineering and information technology at the Technical University in Munich from 1989 to 1996, where she specialized in the field of electronics. Her PhD was awarded in 2001 by the Commission of Professors in Measurement Technology (AHMT e. V.) in Germany. As a senior scientist from 2001-2006, she founded a working group on impedance spectroscopy. In 2004 she founded the German IEEE chapter for instrumentation and measurement. In 2007 she became a full professor for measurement and sensor technology at Technische Universität Chemnitz, Germany and initiated in the same year the International Workshop on Impedance Spectroscopy (IWIS). Her research in the field of smart sensors has been growing up and she succeeded to establish international cooperation with many countries worldwide.

In 2014, she initiated together with colleagues at TU Chemnitz the Interdisciplinary symposium for women in the MINT area (ISINA) to encourage young women to strive for a strong career in science and industry. In 2016 she has been appointed as Distinguished Lecturer of the IEEE Instrumentation and Measurement Society.

Since more than 20 years she has been carrying out research on sensors, measurement systems, and measurement methods. She is a specialist of smart sensors with the focus on impedance spectroscopy, wireless sensors, and nanocomposite sensors. She edited a. o. 13 books, 77 peer-reviewed journal papers, over 250 papers in international conferences and 6 journal special issues.

Dr Marcela Uliano da Silva

Postdoctoral Fellow at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research and Science Communicator

Marcela Uliano-Silva is a brazilian-italian computational biologist and a science communicator. Her central work revolves around the study of animal genomes, evolution and communicating science to a broader public with the intention to help society to incorporate scientific evidence in the decision-making process of every-day life. She holds a PhD in Biophysics from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), where she sequenced the genome of the golden mussel; an invasive species threatening the biodiversity of the South American waters.

Marcela has done a crowdfunding to partially fund the golden mussel genome sequencing during her PhD studies (, she is a TED Fellow since 2014 and works actively to promote gender equality in science. Currently she is a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow (MSCA) at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin, where she is studying the genomes of the living sloths and the convergent evolution that led these extraordinary animals to evolve to live exclusively hanging from the trees of the Central and South American forests.

Photo by Viet Nguyen-Kim

Dr Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim

Science Journalist, Communicator and Trainer at National Institute for Science Communication (Nawik, Karlsruhe)

Dr Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim is a science journalist and trainer at the National Institute for Science Communication (Nawik, Karlsruhe). She studied chemistry at the University of Mainz and at MIT, then followed up with a PhD in polymer chemistry at the Fraunhofer Institute of Applied Polymer Research and Harvard University.

Mai Thi discovered her passion for science communication during her PhD. She started by sharing her research on stage, at Falling Walls, TEDxBerlin, or Science Slams. Currently, she is writing, hosting and producing for the German TV and online channels funk and ZDF (‘Terra X Lesch & Co.’). She is also the host and producer of the YouTube channels ‘The Secret Life Of Scientists’ and ‘schönschlau’ and was awarded First Place in the Fast Forward Science contest for her video ‘Trust me I’m a scientist’.

Dr Alice Dvorská

Independent expert in Environmental Pollution

Alice holds a PhD in environmental chemistry, has worked as a postdoc at the Masaryk University, Czech Republic, and later joined one of the institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences. There she became a junior scientist and, at the time, the only female leader of a scientific team in this institute. During her academic career, she focused on the atmospheric transport of pollution and advanced monitoring methods for pollutants and greenhouse gases. In parallel, she conducted also expert work for environmental NGOs.

Alice enjoyed her scientific career but was at the same time displeased with some aspects of academic life, e.g the high administrative burden. After feeling that she has become a subject of abusive behaviour and gender-based discrimination, she tried to defend her rights by reaching out to both academic and non-academic bodies. The lack of support from afore-mentioned bodies in defending her rights only confirmed her intention to leave the academia. During her career break, she realized ends can also be new beginnings. She decided to combine her scientific expertise with her long-term passion for environmental activism and became a freelance expert in environmental pollution. Now, she supports environmental lawyers and the public in solving cases of environmental pollution and in lobbying. Additionally, she has much more free time now, which allows her to read more scientific literature than during her academic career. She also became a fan and practitioner of eco-friendly gardening. Both are important inspiration sources for her public lectures on environmental issues.

Dr Alisa Stratulat

Applications Development Engineer on Advanced Materials at ZEISS

Alisa holds a BS degree in Engineering from Smith College (USA) with a focus in Materials Science. Her BS thesis focused on the chemical vapour deposition synthesis and characterization of novel carbon compounds. While a student in the USA, she gained experience on working with different materials during several research projects conducted at universities such as Princeton University and Clemson University. She then moved to University of Oxford (UK), where her PhD work was focused on the study of stress corrosion cracking of stainless steels and Ni alloys using micromechanical testing.

Prior to joining ZEISS as an Applications Development Engineer on Advanced Materials, Alisa was a Senior Research Scientist in the Sensors and Wireless R&D Lab at Honeywell, where she developed and improved sensing materials through synthesis and characterization. Alisa is the author and co-author of several abstracts, papers, patents and patent applications in the field of materials science.

She is an active supporter of diversity in STEM fields, she loves interacting with people from different cultures and she is interested in improving access to education and youth empowerment.

Dr Arezoo Pooresmaeili

Head of the Perception and Cognition group at the European Neuroscience Institute in Göttingen, Germany

Arezoo Pooresmaeili is a cognitive neuroscientist. Her research aims at understanding how humans make sense of the multitude of incoming information emanating from their environment, how they decide to act upon this information and how they coordinate their actions with others in a social context.

Arezoo studied medicine at the Tehran Medical University, Iran. After graduation from the medical school (2002) she decided to move to basic science research rather than becoming a clinician. She then did her PhD in neurophysiology in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where she studied how visual perception is modulated by attention (graduation in 2010). She then moved to Pisa, Italy and worked as a postdoctoral fellow (2009-2011), focusing on how visual illusions are processed in the brain. She did a second postdoc in Berlin School of Mind and Brain (2011-2014). In this period, she turned to the investigation of decision-making processes and how they are influenced by reward. Since 2015, she is the head of the Perception and Cognition group at the European Neuroscience Institute in Göttingen, Germany. In 2016 she was awarded an ERC Starting Grant to investigate how reward impacts on information processing in the brain.

During her research career, Arezoo developed an increasing interest in understanding how cognitive biases could shape our social norms. This interest was motivated by the fact that our current society is afflicted with inequality and discrimination at many levels. She is interested to understand the genealogy of economic norms that govern our social interactions and how they could ensue from basic cognitive biases and limitations that characterize human information processing. She hopes that science may enable us to first understand and subsequently to overcome unfounded judgements that reinforce social injustice and discrimination.

Petronela Sandulache

Deputy Lead & Head of Innovation Predevelopment at HELLA Ventures Berlin, Germany

Petronela is a world explorer and a woman in business innovation enthusiastic about everything related to different cultures, innovative technologies and entrepreneurship, and most importantly women empowerment. She started her career in Australia as an economist in a private equity-backed company, then joined PricewaterhouseCoopers in the strategy consulting space, and today she is the deputy lead of HELLA Ventures Berlin where with her amazing team she focuses on building technology startups from scratch in the mobility sector. During her time in Australia she discovered her passion for innovation and women’s empowerment by being part of the firm’s leadership circle that was shaping the future of organisations spanning from financial services to manufacturing, from non-for-profit to government, to achieve positive impacts on society. And so, she has developed an optimistic view on the leading role of women in driving innovation and value creation by trusting themselves and their unique voice notwithstanding the current power struggle between men-women in the corporate world.

By always chasing the ‘out of the comfort zone’ zone, she has committed herself to a life-long learning curve to develop as a leader supportive of women and men to reach their potential, and as an innovator in a continuously changing world.

Diversity, trust and inclusion are the three defining elements behind her ‘roller-coaster’ life – born in Romania, growing up in Italy, and forming herself as a professional in Australia, UK and now Germany, these experiences have shaped who she is. She holds a B.Econ from the University of Rome, and an M.Econ from the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Sydney. She is an honorary member of Beta Gamma Sigma.

LinkedIn: Petronela Sandulache; Twitter: @SapientiaPotent

Dr Franziska Emmerling

Head of Division Structure Analysis, Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing

Franziska Emmerling studied chemistry at the Albert‐Ludwig University of Freiburg from 1994 to 2000, where she specialized in the field of solid-state chemistry. She received her PhD degree from the Albert‐Ludwig University of Freiburg in 2003. After a postdoc period with Prof. Claudia Felser at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, she joined the Federal Institute for Materials research and testing in 2005 as head of the working group X-ray structure analysis. Between 2010 and 2013 she held a guest professorship for inorganic chemistry at the Humboldt University. In 2012 she became head of division ‘Structure Analysis’ working in different research areas from nanoparticles to metal-organic frameworks. In the last 15 years, she has been carrying out research on in situ investigation of crystallization processes, nanoparticle formation, and mechanochemistry. Especially, her research in the field of mechanochemistry is internationally recognized leading to several international cooperation worldwide. She co-authored more than 190 peer-reviewed articles. Dedicated to a strict ‘giver attitude’, she strongly believes that we rise by lifting others. Passing this concept to her students, she prepares them for success in academia or industry.