Sebastian Novak did his PhD at IST Austria in Nick Barton’s group. He is a mathematician by training and published on a wide range of topics like game theory, fungal pathogen dynamics, stress-induced mutagenesis, and the evolution of dispersal. In his PhD thesis, he investigated different aspects of fluctuating selection and their impact on genetic variation. After his PhD, Sebastian stayed at IST Austria as a postdoc for a few months to wrap up his remaining projects, before accepting a job as business consultant in a Vienna-based consultancy. His clients are internationally operating vehicle manufacturing companies, where he learned a lot about (non-scientific) project management, process optimization, corporate governance, collaboration models, and – of course – the automotive industry.

Sebastian will talk about what it is like to switch from academia to consulting and give insights into his current projects, where he helps to build up the IT infrastructure required to develop, test and approve highly automated driving functions.

Friday 22nd of Febuary 2019, Mondi
5pm : Scientific talk and Q&A session about career development / 5.30pm : Refreshments

Johannes Reiter was a PhD student in the Chatterjee group. After graduating he moved to Harvard University, where he was a postdoctoral fellow in Martin Nowak’s group in the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. In June 2017 he took a position as an instructor at Stanford University. In his research, he develops algorithms and mathematical models to study biological processes, in particular those related to the evolution and treatment of cancer. His research on metastases is funded by an Erwin Schrödinger Fellowship of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).
Johannes will talk about his research and how his career developed so far after IST Austria.

Tuesday 9th of October 2018, Ballroom
5pm : Scientific talk / 5:30pm : Q&A session about career development / 6pm : Refreshments

Version FINAL, June 29, 2018

Thank you. I am very grateful to be here.

I love graduations.

I am soaking up the feelings in this room. This room is full of proud families and friends, satisfied faculty members, and joy-filled graduates.

It is a delight to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

*  *  *

Graduations are a special ritual that celebrate an uncommon accomplishment. This is a day to formally acknowledge all that you have done and all that you have become.

This ceremony officially marks the end of your time at IST. You are now looking forward to the next chapter of your career. It is the next chapter, but it is not the last chapter.


Being here takes me back to my own graduation – 22 years ago. I was excitedly looking forward to my future as a professor. For most of the time in graduate school, I assumed that I would return to some kind of university administrative position – work like Hania and Daniala do. But in my last year, I got swept up in the momentum of my friends, and I applied for faculty positions. I received a position at the University of Wisconsin.

My time at UW did not go well. I was very lonely. I discovered that I loved to teach, but I did not love research enough for it to be the centerpiece of my work. This was also obvious to my colleagues, and at the end of my fourth year, I was told that I would not be continuing. This was a shock. This was the first time in my life that I had really failed.

Now, 17 years later, I can report a happy ending. In that time, I have held three very interesting jobs. They are connected by a commitment to improving graduate education. I am happy and professionally satisfied.

I tell you this to illustrate that careers go in chapters.

My current occupation is a career educator. I work with with PhD students and I when I share my own career story, I tell them that:

The metaphor that I like best for thinking about careers – and lives – is a book with chapters.


Each chapter is self-contained. Each chapter builds on the one before. There are themes and threads that run through chapters, and link them together. Sometimes a chapter has a satisfying conclusion. Sometimes a chapter ends with suspense and questions. Sometimes there are abrupt shifts and changes between chapters. But as the book continues, we see how the chapters are connected.

There are several reasons that I like the metaphor of chapters for a career.

1) It reminds us that we are the authors of our story. We have a lot of autonomy and can make choices. Particularly the people in this room who are highly educated.

2) Challenges the notion that a “career” is something that you pick once. That may appear to be the norm with a faculty career. It can be frightening for those looking beyond academia, because the stakes for making a decision seem huge. Thinking as life as a series of chapters, opens up the idea that you have the ability to make choices over and over again. Your first job after your PhD or postdoc is not a lifetime commitment.

If you are dissatisfied and disappointed, you can leave. Learn from your experience. And decide again. Make another choice. Move to another chapter. Indeed, the faculty at IST are excellent examples of that – each of them chose to come here and be part of the pioneering effort to start this university.

3) As you may have seen in the chapter of my story that I told you, you can’t know someone else’s story just from their job title or a short biography. That is like reading a book just from the chapter titles. You need to ask and listen to learn the details. To learn about the ups and downs. To find out what prompted the transitions from one chapter to another.

4) When someone asks, you get to decide how you tell the story of your life. Every time we tell our stories – Who am I? What do I do? What was my path? – we are framing our own narrative. You pick which themes you bring forward and which you put in the background. You help shape how you and others understand who you are, by how you tell your story.

5) Your story is not predetermined. It is not yet set. We don’t know what will happen in your chapters. In fact, you have many possible future selves in you. There are many possible paths and ways that your story might unfold. Many are interesting and meaningful. But you will only live one. That will be dictated by a combination of the choices you make and by circumstances you can’t control. This should give you the confidence to make, and acceptance that much is beyond your control.


As I was thinking about books and chapters and stories, I was reminded of the fairy tales I read as a child. In many fairy tales, in addition to princes and princesses, a common character is the Fairy Godmother. She often bestows wishes upon the princes and princesses.

Standing up here, I feel a little like a fairy godmother, and so I have three wishes for you.


First, I wish for you confidence — confidence in your expertise and skills.

Many students have told me that it is rare during the course of a PhD to be told how smart, creative, and hardworking you are. We focus on our deficiencies, not on our strengths. Today I hope you feel how accomplished and amazing you are.

When I wish you confidence in your skills, you probably think of the technical knowledge and skills acquired during a PhD. But you have learned and developed some skills that are less obvious, but very important.

I would like to list some of those skills.

Remember that you have mastered these skills. Be confident as you move into the next chapter.


My second wish for you is openness to surprises and opportunity. Do not go through your life spending all of your time looking down, and focusing just on the tasks at hand.

Turn your eyes upward, and look around. Say yes to opportunities when they are offered to you.

Say yes, even if you are afraid. Even if you don’t think you can do what is expected of you. Remember, during your PhD you learned how to figure things out and how to persist through adversity.

Many times, saying Yes to opportunities leads to unexpected connections and friendships, to new experiences and surprising plot turns.


Third, I wish for you to take the time to fully understand yourself, and figure out what matters to you.

What are your core values? Your core values are the principles of behavior that are most important to you. What is the true north that aligns your internal compass?

My top 5 values, the ones that guide me in my life and work, are:

My third wish for you is to make decisions based on YOUR values.

Not based on what you are “supposed” to do. Not just with a “rational” assessment of pros and cons. Instead, be clear on what matters to you.

Keep your values front and center when crafting your profession and your life.

Those are my three wishes for you.


Today, I feel like a fairy godmother.

Since this is a day of ritual, let me do this the official way.

As your fairy godmother, I wish for you:

Confidence in your skills

Openness to opportunity

Faithfulness to your values

With these wishes to launch you, I am confident your life will have many interesting, surprising, and fulfilling chapters.

Congratulations on your great achievement. Best wishes for the future.

On Friday, June 29, the Institute of Science and Technology (IST Austria) celebrated 18 new graduates of the Institute’s PhD program. This is the largest class yet, and brings the total number of PhD alumni to 50—a large number for a young institute. After years of dedication, learning, and independent research, these new alumni will go on to pursue careers in academia, industry, and education.

Check out the pictures of this great event.

On Friday, June 29th, 2018 we are going to celebrate our annual IST Austria Graduation Ceremony, to which you are all wholeheartedly invited!
The number of graduates per year is growing constantly: this year, we are going to be celebrating the graduation of:

The ceremony is going to take place on **Friday, June 29th at 5:00 pm** in the Raiffeisen Lecture Hall and is going to be followed by a champagne reception.

This year for the first time we invited the IST Alumni to join us at the annual IST BBQ. Starting out with a special reception with Tom Henzinger on the terrace of the cafeteria we were able to chat about career development but also about memories on their time at IST Austria. Later the alumni were able to mingle with the general IST Austria crowed at the BBQ.

Check out the pictures of this nice event.

Christine Mieck was at IST Austria from 2015 to 2017 as a Postdoc in the Loose Group. She is now an editor at Nature. She will talk about how to publish your paper within a Nature Journal, what is the editors job like, publishing ethics and preprints…

Friday 15th of June 2018, Mondi 2
4pm : Scientific talk / 4:30pm : Q&A session about career development / 5pm : Refreshments

Each year the IST BBQ is a special occasion for IST members and their families. This year IST Austria is happy to announce that as an IST Austria alumni you and your family are invited to join the IST BBQ as guests of the alumni initiative.

We want to welcome you back to campus with a special alumni champagne reception with our President Tom Henzinger before the official opening of the BBQ. Afterwards you can mingle with the general IST crowd.

When?                 June 14th, 2018 4.15 – 4.45 (official opening BBQ at 5 pm)

Where?                Terrace Cafeteria

Please register by email to by June 1st at the latest if you (and your guests) will attend. Please note that registration is mandatory!

Program IST BBQ

5:00 pm

Welcome by Georg Schneider, Raiffeisen Lecture HallIST Golden Chalk Best Lecturer Award /IST Golden Sponge Best Teaching Assistant Award, Raiffeisen Lecture Hall
IST Excellent Performance Award Admin/SSU, Raiffeisen Lecture Hall

5:45 pm

Dinner & drinks, Outside

8:30 pm

Music by DJ Norbert, Guest House Lobby

11:30 pm

Last orders

12:03 pm

Last public bus back to Heiligenstadt

Thorsten Tarrach was at IST Austria from 2012 to 2016 as a PhD student in the Henzinger Group. He is now a researcher at AIT Austrian Institute of Technology. He will talk about his research and what it is like to work on the boundary between research and industry.

At the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology we work on the boundary between research and industry in fields ranging from health, biology, to energy and computer science. Our goal is to connect research with the Austrian industry and ensure they are fit for the future. In the Dependable Systems Engineering group we focus on safety and security in software engineering, in particular on automating software testing.

In this talk I will outline my work at AIT, the work environment, what industrial research means, how it is funded and for who that may be the right job after a PhD or Post-Doc.

Friday 27th of April 2018, Mondi 2
4pm : Scientific talk / 4:30pm : Q&A session about career development / 5pm : Refreshments

Science Outreach Activities 2018

This year, IST Austria will host two science festivals and two science camps for children on campus. The “Lange Nacht der Forschung” on April 13 will give visitors the opportunity to find out more about the research conducted by scientific institutions from Lower Austria. Open Campus on May 27 will allow adults and children eager for knowledge to explore science in a hands-on exhibition, go on campus and laboratory tours, and take part in a diverse children’s program. The “Sommer – campus” on August 20-24 will encourage primary school children to engage in science and art. Last but not least, “Top Models in Science” on August 27-29 will teach teenagers how to use mathematical and computer models.