Through its Intensive Track Program, the Falling Walls Foundation supports talented young female scientists in taking their next career step. The selected participants take part in intensive trainings in Berlin and get the opportunity to meet outstanding women leaders. They are also matched with high-profile mentors. Regular meetings encourage the 20 women to build a network for peer learning, peer coaching, and mutual support. The program plans to promote the researchers’ international visibility and impact by including their stories and achievements in Falling Walls social media campaigns and by having them speak at a public event during the Berlin Science Week.
Dr. Katarina Braune is a pediatric and adolescent medicine specialist in the Department of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes at Charité and also serves as the spokesperson for the Digital Clinician Scientist Program of the BIH and Charité.“I knew early on that I wanted to become a pediatric endocrinologist and diabetologist,” Braune says. “I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was twelve. As a patient you become an expert yourself, and my pediatric diabetologist at the time was a professional role model for me.” After completing her Abitur, Braune studied medicine at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. In 2016 she joined the Department of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes at Charité and has been a pediatric and adolescent medicine specialist since 2021.
Braune is delighted to be chosen for the Intensive Track Program. “Being able to learn from strong and successful women in science and business is a wonderful opportunity to advance my career plans in a targeted way.” Alongside her work at the hospital, she conducts research as part of the OPEN project, which is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, and as part of the BIH QUEST Center and the BIH Charité Clinician Scientist Program. “As a result, I devote part of my working time solely to research activities,” says the 32-year-old. The OPEN project, which Braune co-initiated about five years ago, is an international research collaboration involving Charité that brings together patient innovators, clinicians, social scientists, computer scientists and patient advocacy organizations in order to investigate various aspects of do-it-yourself artificial pancreas systems (DIYAPS).
“Since current technological solutions for treating diabetes are not sufficiently tailored to patients’ needs, and regulatory approval processes are often lengthy, more and more people with diabetes are using DIYAPS on their own,” Braune explains. Does the use of these automated diabetes management systems improve clinical scores? Do they impact quality of life? Are there positive psychosocial effects? The OPEN team is using data analysis to investigate these and other questions. The core of the project is patient participation; about two-thirds of the scientists involved live with type 1 diabetes themselves. “We incorporate the ideas, skills, and needs of the diabetes online community into our study designs,” Braune says. “I hope that our research can help to better understand the open source movement and the needs of people with diabetes in order to develop safe and effective solutions that sustainably improve the health and quality of life of people with diabetes.”
Jessica L. Rohmann heads the Neuroepidemiology Research Group at the Center for Stroke Research Berlin (CSB) and also conducts research at the Institute of Public Health (IPH) at Charité. How should a research question be formulated? How must study methods be designed so that the question can be answered coherently? To what extent can unsuitable methods negatively affect or even distort research findings? These are questions that Rohmann asks herself every day and which she believes too few researchers address. “The methods used substantially influence a study’s findings and the way they may be interpreted,” Rohmann explains. “In published studies, however, key details about the methodology are often not given in sufficient detail. This makes it difficult or impossible to determine whether the findings based on the methodological details are correct and how they can be interpreted correctly.” The 31-year-old has therefore made it her mission to improve the reproducibility and transparency of studies and to promote the use of suitable state-of-the-art analytical methods in neurovascular research.
Rohmann applied for the Intensive Track Program because she was looking for contact with young female scientists pursuing similar goals. “It is truly fantastic to be selected. I already find the exchange in this interdisciplinary network very motivating. ”Born in the United States, Rohmann studied biochemistry and German language and literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US. In 2012 Rohmann came to Charité for her graduate studies in public health – and stayed. At first she served as a research associate in clinical epidemiology at the CSB and then moved to the IPH in 2018, where she worked intensively on methods research. She remains affiliated with the IPH as a leading member of the Causal Methods and Neurovascular Epidemiology Research Group (CONVERGE) and coordinates the Health Data Sciences PhD Program, which, inspired by her own experiences as a doctoral student, she co-founded four years ago. The program gives young scientists intensive methodological training and supports them in planning and evaluating their own studies. “It is important to me that doctoral students learn to critically assess the quality of research methods and gain hands-on experience by applying best practices in their own research,” Rohmann says. “They are the researchers of tomorrow. If we provide them with sound methodological competence, this will lead to better studies and more reliable and meaningful research findings in the future."