Julia Fischer

Research Group Leader Cognitive Ethology at the University of Göttingen/German Primate Center

Julia Fischer obtained her PhD from the Free University of Berlin in 1996 with a study on the vocal communication of macaques. After research visits to the NIH and Harvard University, she was offered a postdoctoral position at the University of Pennsylvania. During this time, she conducted 18 months field research on wild baboons in the Okavango delta in Botswana. In 20001, she moved to the Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. She obtained her habilitation in 2004 and was awarded a Heisenberg Fellowship. In the same year, she became a professor at the Georg-August-University of Göttingen, a joint appointment with the German Primate Center where she is head of the Cognitive Ethology Laboratory. Her research centers on the vocal communication, cognition and social behavior of nonhuman primates, but she also studied the word learning abilities of a domestic dog and the ultrasonic communication of mice. With her team, she established a field station in Senegal in 2007 to study Guinea baboons and West African vervet monkeys. She was a member of “Die Junge Akademie” from 2003-2008 and her president 2004-2005. In 2007, she was elected into the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science; in 2009 she became a corresponding member of the Göttingen Academy of Science. She was a member of the board of the Ludwig-Maximilian-University Munich, is the president of the European Federation of Primatology, served as a panel member and presently as a panel chair for the ERC Starting Grants funding scheme.

Have no fear

In this presentation, I will start out with a brief sketch of my scientific career, with a focus on one of the defining phases of my life when I lived in the Okavango delta for 18 months, studying wild baboons. I will draw from lessons learned “in the bush” (facing lions and other adversaries) and how it affected my stance in critical situations in my scientific career. I will then go on to talk about my experiences when I began to establish my research group in Göttingen. I will conclude with some advice for young (female) scientists, specifically how important it is to stay true to oneself – and to have no fear of what lies ahead.

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