International Research Training Group IRTG 1830

Within the IRTG 1830 on Complex Membrane Proteins in Development and Disease highly profiled researchers and young academics of two German universities (University of Kaiserslautern and Saarland University) and the University of Alberta at Edmonton (Canada) are investigating the role of membrane proteins in developmental processes and diseases such as immune mediated diseases, deafness, cystic fibrosis, cancer and cardiovascular dysfunction. It was the first joint training group for highly-qualified students from Germany and Canada in the life science area. In Germany, the programme is financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG) while the partner group in Canada receives funding from the Collaborative Research and Training Experiences Program (CREATE) of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

From 2003 to 2012 the DFG supported the national Research Training Group RTG 845 at the University of Kaiserslautern and Saarland University with a scientific focus on cellular membrane transport and a special qualification programme for PhD students. After a talk of the Membrane Protein Disease Research Group (MPDRG) director from the University of Alberta during the guest seminar program of this training group, the idea of a long-term international cooperation was established. Several jointly organized symposia of the two research groups in Canada and Germany afterwards showed a perfect fit of the research interests and the training concepts of the two groups as well as a visionary “chemistry” between all members. As a result, a joint proposal was submitted to the DFG and NSERC. We were very happy that it was approved and that we were able to start our collaboration in June 2012. “The students of the meanwhile expired RTG 845 really regretted that such cooperation did not exist earlier”


The collaborations conducted during the past four years have been far from limited to technical aspects; rather, they have been strongly based upon real common scientific interest and thus have considerably increased our conceptional power, technical feasibilities and the repertoire of biological systems used on both sides. This is very well documented by already having about 80 publications in high ranking journals, several directly resulting from the cooperation projects.

The similar cultural characteristics make it highly attractive for German graduates to move to Canada and vice versa. All exchange students reported on new ideas for their ongoing research obtained through the research stays and that the stay abroad in general was a great experience for their professional and personal development. Furthermore, our trainees have developed own networks, which already resulted in new cooperation projects (and in somewhat funny “survival guides” for their colleagues who are currently planning their research stays).

The IRTG exchange programme is not limited to the level of PhD students as we joined the Undergraduate Research Abroad Programme of the University of Alberta. This programme allows undergraduate students to spend six weeks at a German University and we have already hosted nine undergraduate students of highest caliber.

So far, nine trainees on each side successfully finished their studies and started new careers immediately after their defenses either at different universities or in industry. This clearly documents the high quality of our training programme and the topicality and quality of our research programme as well as the successful promotion of our trainees’ scientific independence.

We are shortly due to implement a joint degree programme, through which our doctoral students will be able to earn a PhD degree granted cooperatively by either the University of Kaiserslautern and the University of Alberta or the Saarland University and the University of Alberta. We expect the implementation in the course of 2016. This double examination will easily allow identifying our alumni as high potentials among all applicants for a certain position.

In summary, a very stimulating atmosphere to pursue research on membrane proteins developed through this German/Canadian collaboration with excellent training opportunities in both partner countries. Motivated by the increasing team spirit among PIs and students, the German and Canadian groups are increasingly teaming up. The IRTG provides young scientists with a unique international training opportunity in a cutting-edge scientific area.

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