Vienna BioCenter Leadership Program

Leaders in academia face a variety of challenges including global competition, high levels of uncertainty in a research landscape that is constantly changing, pressure to make investments  of their time in a multitude of roles that are associated with an expansion of responsibilities (e.g. communicating results, securing funding, recruiting, mentoring, committee service, and public outreach) – all of which impose stress on themselves and their teams.


These challenges can stand in the way of ground-breaking discoveries, and leadership training is not always part of the academic system.

To meet this need at the Vienna BioCenter institutes, we designed a comprehensive program to provide our team leaders with inspiration, support, and tools to continuously improve in their role. We bring on board not only research group leaders, but also administrative, support, and facility leaders to ensure that appreciation is built with common goals in mind. The program is designed to create community and mentorship amongst leaders on campus, thereby contributing to a positive and productive work environment.


This program consists of three parts spread over one year, which we designed like base camps on a mountain expedition. All participants start at Base 1 to engage with the topic; they can then choose to proceed to Base 2 and 3, depending on their appetite for the leadership topic.

Base 1 (Starting the leadership journey) is a retreat at the beginning of the year, where leaders from across campus in research, administration, and support divisions form a long-lasting cohort. The goals of the retreat are skill acquisition and self-reflection about leadership principles, with a focus on immediate results. Additionally, leaders discuss a shared leadership vision for the Vienna BioCenter institutes. 

Base 2 (Skilling up) consists of a set of modules that participants can choose from over the following months to deepen their own leadership skills, implement the skills learned with their teams, and practice mentorship with other program participants.

Base 3 (Leading into the future) is a closing retreat, which aims to consolidate experiences, strengthen the relationships formed between leaders, discuss advanced leadership strategies, and prepare to pass on learned skills to the rest of the community. The goal is to create a lasting impact through the development of a mentorship network on campus for leaders and their groups.

  • Role awareness as a leader 
  • Understanding group dynamics 
  • Effective communication 
  • Setting priorities and good goals 
  • Delegation and motivation 
  • Solving conflicts and thriving with different personalities 
  • Resilience and handling stress 
  • Recruiting and Negotiation 
  • Establishing and maintaining a values-based team culture 
  • Professional development opportunities for leaders on campus
  • Stress reduction of leaders, while preserving excellence and competitiveness
  • Engaged leaders that address challenges transparently
  • Change process with lasting effects on overall well-being of our community
  • Understanding of shared goals and strengthened network between groups of leaders
  • Increased external visibility and competitiveness of individuals


The Program was co-designed by Eva Schmid (Vienna BioCenter Scientific Training), Charlotte Hochman (Wow!Labs) and hfp consulting. The participants’ leadership journey is supported throughout the year by a program team as well as external trainers and coaches. The program is evaluated at each step and continuously adapted to suit emerging needs.

Program team:

Lead: Eva Schmid, PhD (Head of scientific training)

Supported by: Adam Cooper, Mehdi Khadraoui (Communications),    Christopher Robinson, Andrea Sasse (Operations)

About Eva

I am a scientist by training with two decades of research experience and an all-rounded understanding of academia and higher education. Besides a passion for science, I am driven by a deep interest in people and communities. I now lead the Scientific Training Unit at the Vienna BioCenter - a team with many roles. Our responsibilities start with the recruitment of young talent and continue to equipping the next generation of researchers with skills that will enable them to thrive in their profession. An important aspect of our work is to provide advice and support for the cohesion of the community on campus. I am excited about the design and implementation of a comprehensive leadership program on campus because it will change how we show up for each other as a community in an evolving academic landscape. I am optimistic that the program will help us discover our leadership values and learn to live by them as examples on a daily basis.

Wow!Labs is an innovation studio working globally since 2012. We create cultures of innovation and the means for new types of leadership to flourish within higher education, companies and cities.

We have developed leadership programs across the globe, with a special focus on embedding cultures that favours new types of leadership sustainably within organizations, aligning top management, training in-house program teams that can grow, and articulating the intervention of different trainers for optimal delivery. Our priority is to grow the capacity for leadership within organizations in a systemic way, and to make space for the topic to grow by creating an embodied conversation that most people will want to join over time.

hfp consulting - shaping the culture of science by training scientists to be effective, inclusive, and authentic leaders

hfp consulting provides professional development training and coaching exclusively for the scientific community. Our mission is to help researchers grow and succeed by working with them to develop leadership and management skills, by fostering personal development, as well as by strengthening interpersonal competencies and communication skills. Most of our highly skilled and experienced facilitators have a science background and some are still active as postdoc, group leader or professor. The style of our courses is process-oriented and interactive. Brief theoretical inputs are followed by exercises, partner work, role-plays, case studies and group-work. We have developed and established professional development workshops for scientists at leading organizations in Europe, the Middle East, USA, Africa and Japan. If you are curious to know more about hfp consulting and our working philosophy, please refer to our value proposition by clicking here. Meet our international team here and  just get in touch for any questions and more information:


Peer Mentoring Culture

As part of the program, we will establish a peer-mentoring culture to develop the capacity of leaders to support each other in-between the modules and beyond.  

Additionally, participating leaders have access to one-to-one coaching choosing freely from >10 different coaches identified by the program. 

Dr. Patten has worked for over 20 years with researchers and other professionals to help them develop their thinking. His approach draws heavily on experience in psychotherapy and counselling, particularly the concept of supervision. His work with researchers takes into account research strategy and implementation while identifying concrete steps to ensure that data and thinking are converted into clearly presented research stories that have the highest chance of making an impact. By working closely with Dr. Patten not only on the output of their work but also on the process of generating it, researchers have found lasting benefit that enhances the work done at all levels in their groups. Testimonials from researchers who have worked with him can be found on his website at &  

More information on Iain’s approach here

Melissa graduated from the London School of Economics before returning back to Geneva to hold several management and team leader positions in business, non profits and science (research institutes). She is a professional negotiator with over 30 years experience in negotiating agreements and training in negotiation skills and conflict management. Her customers include international organisations, national and multinational companies, scientific research institutes, universities and non-profit organisations. Her book “The practical negotiation handbook A Five Step Approach to Lasting Partnerships” was published end 2021 and has been translated in several languages. 

A certified Solution Focussed coach, Melissa helps people and organisations face their challenges, and to get to where they want to be. She has solid analytical, relational and communication skills, and a great motivation to accompany people and companies in their professional and personal development. She has a wide experience working in science and academia. She also runs workshops on Self-leadership skills around Europe. 

More information on Melissa’s approach here

Florian is a trained neuroscientist and coach. Working in both areas allows him to devote himself in a to his great passions: people and science. Florian believes that leading a satisfying life can be a challenge due to the need to balance various aspects such as work, family, relationships, and health, all while being influenced by beliefs, biography, and environment. He aims to help people find their path to a more fulfilling life, utilizing neurobiology to understand and manage the brain. Florian also believes that increased contentment leads to better interaction and improved quality of life for all.

Florian is based at the Vienna Biocenter and coaching sessions can be held in person.  

More information on Florian’s approach here

A description on hfp can be found below. Apart from leadership training hfp offers access to variety of coaches, information on each can be found here: 

Sašo Kočevar  (

Sue Hewitt, PhD  (

Thomas Frick  (

Dr. Irene Nagel  (

Yuvalal Liron  (

Franck Fourniol, PhD  (

Prof. Romain Barrès, PhD  (

Dr. Tobias Maier  (

Participants 2024

The second cohort of participants was selected with the objective of creating a diverse group amongst departments, genders, leadership styles, experience levels and nationalities. Participants will bring: 

  • a constructive attitude toward the ambition of the program 
  • good collaboration skills 
  • time commitment 
  • a willingness to positively influence and support others  

Head of BioOptics (VBC)

Technology Platform Head (IMP)

Management (GMI/IMBA)

Head of Communications (IMP)

Group Leader (IMP)

Group Leader (IMBA)

Head of Molecular Biology Service (VBC)

Group Leader (IMP)

Group Leader (IMBA)

Group Leader (IMBA)

Group Leader (IMBA)

Head of Lab Support (VBC)

Head of Drosophila Center (VBCF)

Group Leader (IMP)

Head of Proteomics (VBC)

Head of Bioinformatics (VBC)

Head of Purchasing (VBC)

Participants 2023

Group Leader (IMP)

Group Leader (GMI)


Management (IMP)

Group Leader (IMBA)

Group Leader (GMI)

Group Leader (IMP)

Health & Safety (IMP)

Group Leader (IMBA)

Communications Dept. (IMBA/GMI)

Group Leader (IMBA)

Group Leader (GMI)

Group Leader (IMP)

HR Dept. (IMP)