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Can we please go home? The Zerial Lab on retreat in Berlin

It is Wednesday afternoon and 18 people just hopped off the train in Berlin-Südkreuz. Sandy’s phone rings. “Mhh…okay. Guys, no hurry, Marino just now left the institute to drive to Berlin.”. A sly smile runs over the faces of the group. Maybe we have time for a coffee after all before a three-day science marathon starts.

Our group is on retreat. After travelling restrictions and online meetings, we can finally all sit in a room and discuss science. For this purpose, the Max Planck Society has provided us access to a very special location: The Harnack House in Berlin-Dahlem. Established in 1929 it served as a conference venue and scientific club of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Society and is now made available for groups of all Max-Planck Institutes for conferences and meetings. The purpose of this retreat is to take a step back and situate each project within the overall scientific framework of the group. Sometimes this is hard, since all of us spend our days thinking about the details and specific aim of our personal project. We present, think, discuss, work in small and big groups and in the end come up with a holistic view of the science done in the lab. “We have to look at the tree as a whole and cut branches if needed,” Marino emphasizes.

 

After two days of work, we find the time to explore an exceptionally sunny city. Equipped with a road book, an instant camera and transport tickets, Team Bubbletea, The Portal Triumph, and Alexa-488 are on the go to solve mysteries in Berlin. While Federica and Marino push their team to top performance, Team Bubbletea and Alexa-488 cannot resist enjoying the culinary delights of the city. Overall, we were buying time to let Marino win.

We conclude the outing with dinner at a Peruvian restaurant – a location hard to find in our hometown Dresden. Especially our Chilean postdoc José is floating on cloud nine when the Ceviche is served. After a long day of science, sports and excitement, we are wrapping up to take the bus back to the hotel. “Can we please go home?” asks Yannis, our staff scientist and takes a nap on the bus.

Overall, the three days spent in Berlin were a success. Nineteen people are going back to their benches and desks with a better idea of their aims, improved synergies between subgroups, new ideas for collaboration and a freshly acquired taste for South-American food.

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