18 September 2023

15.00 - 15.10 - Welcome and details of the symposium

15.10 - 15.25 - Introduction of all the participating doctoral programs

15.30 - 16.00 - Keynote 1: Sarah Blackford (Careers and Path to a PhD)

16.05 - 16.35 - Keynote 2: Desiree Dickerson (Wellbeing in Academia)

16.40 - 17.10 - Panel Discussion with PIs and students

17.15 - 18.30 - Meet the Vienna area doctoral programs

18.30 - 18.35 - Closing Remarks



Keynote Speakers

Sarah Blackford is a qualified academic career consultant and coach and an honorary teaching fellow (Lancaster University) with a background in scientific research and publishing. A Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA), Sarah specialises in supporting the career development of PhD and postdoctoral researchers to help guide them to achieve a rewarding career path, whether they are considering academia or a non-academic career (or both!). She has been delivering career workshops and one-to-one coaching for over 20 years and her workshops are broadly based on her book, ‘Career planning for research bioscientists’, and much of her advice and resources are published on her website, After a long career working with a scientific learned society as their head of careers and education, Sarah set up her own independent company (PhD Career Consultancy) in 2017 and in 2018 she moved to live in Germany. You can connect with her on LinkedIn: and also join the LinkedIn group, CARE (Careers Advice for Researchers in Europe), which she co-founded with the aim to create a community that provides support and information for PhD researchers.

Desiree Dickerson PhD is a clinical psychologist who specialises in the mental health and well-being of our research community. As a former researcher in the neurosciences, Desiree works globally with universities, lab groups, and academics in the pursuit of a healthier approach to research.


Eva Schmid, Ph.D., leads the Scientific Training Unit at the Vienna Biocenter. Her team designs and implements innovative and comprehensive training programs for all levels at the Vienna BioCenter to benefit a cohesive and thriving community. Eva holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge, UK and worked for more than a decade on various interdisciplinary projects at UC Berkeley in the US. Besides her passion for science, she is motivated by a deep interest in people and communities. This led to a transition in her career to enable groundbreaking research on a broader level – by empowering curious young researchers to acquire the skills to succeed in the modern scientific landscape.  

Jean-Paul currently serves as Head of Human Resources at CeMM, an interdisciplinary research institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences committed to advancing the understanding of human diseases through basic and biomedical research. Before that he worked as Human Resources Manager for the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) with more than 110 independent research groups and service teams covering the spectrum of molecular biology at six sites in Barcelona, Grenoble, Hamburg, Heidelberg, Hinxton (EMBL-EBI), and Rome. Following his law studies, he was also educated in France at the Sorbonne University where he earned an MSc in Human Resources Development, has an Advanced Certificate in Strategic Human Resources Management from Cornell University, and is a Certified Professional from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Maria Trofimova, Ph.D., is the head of the graduate school office, at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA). Maria is a higher education professional with over fifteen years of international experience in graduate education management and strategic student enrollment. As head of the graduate school at ISTA she deals with all aspects of the ISTA interdisciplinary PhD program and Student Affairs.

Antonia completed her Bachelor's and Master's studies in Life Science at the University of Konstanz, Germany. Following this, she relocated to the IMP in Vienna to pursue her PhD in Molecular Biology. During her doctoral research, she focused on unraveling the structure and function of the protein interaction network of myosin. In 2021, Antonia completed her PhD and subsequently decided to transition into Doctoral Education. She currently is the executive manager of the Doctoral School of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Vienna. Drawing from her own experience in Life Science research, Antonia is dedicated to ensuring that PhD students enjoy a fruitful and rewarding journey throughout their Doctoral Studies.

Nadja Holzleitner has worked as the coordinator of the Doctoral School in Microbiology and Environmental Science since its establishment in 2020. In that time, the team of the docschool established teaching on the doctoral level, provided a soft skill curriculum to the students, and set up an extensive student support system, both in the administrative and personal context. Prevously Nadja worked as an administrator at the University of Vienna, gaining in-depth insight into the workings of the university as well as budgetary and personnel management. She completed a master's degree in Microbiology and has personal knowledge and experience of the field.