Celebrating women in Germany

This week, we celebrated the successes of a number of influential women in Germany – women who have risen the ranks and strive for the betterment of Europe.

On Wednesday we celebrated the 65th birthday of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has served as Chancellor since 2005 and is listed by Forbes as the “most powerful woman in the world.”

At the same time, Ursula Von der Leyen was elected 383 to 327 to become president of the European Commission, making her the first woman in history to hold the position. The EU Commission is the executive branch of the European Union, and the president is tasked to lead the EU’s executive body and provide political guidance. The Commission proposes new laws, manages the EU budget and enforces EU law, making Von der Leyen’s role an important one for the future of Europe.

©dpa / picture alliance

“In her speech, she called for a united and strong EU on which we now want to work together,” said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in a statement congratulating Von der Leyen. “It was important that she made a clear commitment today to the rule of law and to a social and sovereign Europe based on the principle of solidarity. This is the right agenda for the EU, and it will be judged on that. The world will not wait for Europe. It is therefore essential that we look to the future and further develop the new Commission’s program swiftly.”

Replacing Von der Leyen as the Defense Minister is Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leader of the German Christian Democrats. This will be Kramp-Karrenbauer’s first job in the federal government – and one that is no small task! She will oversee 250,000 soldiers and civilians in a challenging and high-profile position at a time when the Defense Ministry is undergoing extensive reforms.

These women have – and will continue to have – important roles that help form the future of Germany and the European Union. And alongside that, they also symbolize the power and influence that women have in Germany today, demonstrating that women can – and will – continue to play an important role in politics. Not only in Germany, but on a global scale.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Julius Böhme represents Germany in World Brain Bee Championship

A 17-year old student from Germany is in Washington this week to compete against 24 other contestants in the World Brain Bee Championship – an annual neuroscience competition for youth. Julius Böhme, a student from Demen, Germany, is representing his country in a competition that tests students on their knowledge of the human brain, including intelligence, emotions, memory, sleep, vision, hearing, sensations and various diseases.

A few months prior, Böhme won Germany’s Deutsche Neurowissenschaften-Olympiade (DNO e.V.), which hosts neuroscience Olympiads as part of the International Brain Bee Organization. By receiving first place, Böhme went on to represent Germany in the United States.

While in Washington, Böhme visited the German Embassy with his parents and girlfriend and spoke about his passion for neuroscience. His interest in the field was sparked about two years ago after his grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a neurological condition that adversely affects the mind and the body, he said. Witnessing his grandfather’s suffering is what initially triggered Böhme’s quest for knowledge about the brain. As a young student, Böhme had not learned neuroscience in school, and what he knows now has been self-taught.

“The brain is so fascinating to me and many others because it is that organ that makes us who we really are and we don’t truly understand it,” Böhme said. “Everybody carries a brain. But the majority of people don’t think about the organ that we need to think. I would like for more people to think about how beautiful their organ is and that you really need it. You can live with one kidney, for example, but you can’t cut off half of your brain.”

Böhme is troubled that doctors and scientists understand so little about psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders. After he graduates from secondary school next year, he hopes to attend a university and study medicine, specializing in neurology and psychiatry. His goal is to contribute new knowledge to the field, which would potentially help those who suffer from psychiatric disorders.

Winning the World Brain Bee Championship would “be amazing,” Böhme said. The $3000 scholarship prize would help him pay for university, which can be expensive, depending on where someone chooses to study. “It’s also nice to get feedback that you already know a lot about certain regions,” Böhme says.

The competition will feature six knowledge stations and tests will have various formats, including multiple choice questions and timed oral exams. But regardless of how Böhme fares, his interest in the brain will not waver – and he’s already thinking about the future of the field.

“Every brain is very unique and all the connections throughout the brain make a personality,” he said. “For me it would be great if humanity at some point in the future would be able to track all the connections in your brain and be able to store it in a computer or so, because you can really draw a personality from someone that way.”

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy