Judith Zaugg

Judith Zaugg, group leader at EMBL (© EMBL/M. Schupp)

Inside view: Judith Zaugg | NatureJobs

"EMBL offers a very collaborative and inspiring working environment, which has been great for me... There are scientists from many different fields, enabling us to take a very interdisciplinary approach to biology."
Read more about Judith Zaugg's start as a group leader at EMBL on NatureJobs >

EMBL fosters excellence by providing a highly collaborative environment that benefits the research of all its scientists, whether at the graduate, post-doctoral, or group leader level.

We hire group leaders early in their career and provide them with a supportive, collegial and family friendly environment that allows them to launch ambitious and original research programmes.

EMBL’s unique interdisciplinary and intercultural diversity creates a vibrant and innovative atmosphere.

We offer:

Eligibility restrictions
There are no nationality, gender or age restrictions.
Required qualifications and experience

The candidate needs to hold a PhD or equivalent degree. There is no minimum postdoc experience required, we have hired candidates in the past that have had between one and seven years of postdoc experience but this should be seen more as a guide than as a rule.

We encourage interdisciplinary research and would also welcome applicants that are trained as physicists, chemists or mathematicians, for example.

Selection process

Suitable applicants will be invited for an interview to EMBL. This will include presenting their work and future research plans and interviews with members of the search committee.

The search committee will recommend their selected candidate first to the EMBL Senior Scientist Committee and then to the EMBL Scientific Advisory Committee for endorsement. An official offer letter will be issued in writing to the candidate.

Conditions of employment

Successful applicants will receive an initial fixed-term staff member contract for a period of five years, which includes a probation period of six months. Further contract extensions up to a maximum period of nine years as a staff member are dependent on receiving a favourable review by the EMBL Scientific Advisory Committee.

Read more about working conditions at EMBL >

Funding: general

EMBL greatest asset is its unique scientific culture. The laboratory has a tradition of research excellence and a belief that this is best achieved via collaboration and integration. Most research groups at EMBL are led by young group leaders in their first independent position who stay at EMBL for a maximum of nine years. To achieve success at the level expected at EMBL these groups require a supportive environment. Components of this include excellent scientific services, state-of-the-art Core Facilities and the well-known EMBL International PhD Programme that creates a regular influx of top-quality PhD students into all EMBL labs. The constant rejuvenation of the EMBL faculty naturally maintains a high level of scientific excitement and enthusiasm. This leads to an unusually high level of information exchange between groups and scientific Units and thus to a very high number of collaborations. This in turn greatly increases the efficiency of both individual laboratories and of the collective and optimises EMBL's scientific output. One indication of this success is that EMBL has been ranked repeatedly in the world as one of the top research institutes in the life sciences. A wide range of seminars, courses and conferences are held at EMBL, providing access to a broad network of scientists and scientific information from Europe and beyond.

Many of these aspects of EMBL, including some of the most important factors behind our success, are not financially quantifiable. Indeed, our unique institutional structure makes us difficult to compare with more conventionally organised research institutes.

Funding: internally provided Unit resources

Your group will have full EMBL funding of your own position, a technician or equivalent position, an average of two EMBL-funded PhD students at steady state and a year’s postdoctoral funding.


Operating expenditure


The operating budget depends on the Unit in which the research group is located and the type of research pursued (e.g. whether equipment or consumable intensive). The sums involved will be discussed in detail during interview.


It should also be emphasised that the operating budget is completely available for expenditure by the group on materials, travel and other costs as well as capital expenditure for equipment purchased in the group and Unit. Salary costs are not included in this budget. Salary budgets are allocated in addition to this allowance.


An additional central fund is available for the purchase of items of equipment whose cost exceeds that which can be carried by the Unit. A large variety of expensive technology and equipment is made available via EMBL's central services (see below). The initial equipment requirements of each group are different, and thus are dealt with on an individual basis during recruitment. The bottom line is that EMBL will aim to meet your research needs. EMBL enters these discussions with a view to finding ways to provide all necessary equipment. There are no charges for central overheads to be paid and a large range of services are provided centrally free of charge or on the basis of the cost of consumable materials.


External funding


Your budget will provide for a group of roughly four to five people without requiring additional external funding. We always encourage postdoctoral fellows to apply for external funding. You can acquire additional funding by applying for external grants. Any grant income you are successful in obtaining would be additional so there is no expectation that grant funding should be used to offset the EMBL budget.


EMBL’s group leaders have an excellent track record of successful grant applications. There are currently over 400 externally funded projects and fellowships running at EMBL and its outstations, 350 of which are research project grants. EMBL investigators are participating in a total of 124 EC grants, 16 of which are coordinated in-house. EMBL has been a host for over 20 of the prestigious ERC Frontier Research Grants under FP7 and H2020. Apart from the European Commission, the institute currently receives external funds from more than 40 international grant givers such as the NIH, French, German and British national funding bodies, EMBO, IMI, The Gates Foundation, HFSP, as well as other private and public foundations.


External grant funding makes up appr. 20% of EMBL’s total income.


In order to keep up this high level of incoming funding, EMBL supports its scientists through internal consulting units. Specialising in obtaining and managing 3rd party funding, the EMBL Grants Services provide support throughout the life cycle of a project, from Grant/Fellowship Search to the Application process (including preparing pre-award budgets), Grant Negotiation (signatures, etc.), Management (troubleshooting and support), Compliance issues, Ethical concerns as well as Training on funding related issues. Once the funding has been awarded, the Budget Office supports investigators with the financial administration of research grants, budget preparation (internal & external), monitoring and controlling expenditure as well as with the preparation/submission of financial reports to grant giving bodies.


Centrally provided services


EMBL finds that, in an institute that is largely composed of junior groups of small to intermediate size, it makes more sense for many services to be provided centrally. This avoids wastage of resource and frees scientists to pursue their science rather than administer contracts for routine services. These central services are set out in the following list:


Scientific Services



  • Bio-IT Portal
  • Bioinformatics Services
  • Linux Tools and Applications
  • EMBL-EBI Bioinformatics Tools


Core Facilities:

  • Advanced Light Microscopy
  • Chemical Biology
  • Electron Microscopy
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Genomics
  • Metabolomics
  • Protein Expression & Purification
  • Proteomics



  • Electronic Workshop
  • Mechanical Workshop
  • Scientific Instruments Maintenance


Central IT Services


Other Services:

  • Library
  • Photolab
  • Conferences Services
  • Media Kitchens (Dish-washing)
  • Health & Safety
  • Human Resources, including Recruitment
  • Finance, including Grants Services


Other, non-scientific services


The normal financial and personnel services are provided centrally without charge as are major building and refurbishment works, power, water, telephone, and internet.  There is an efficient, computerised central purchasing system to facilitate your ordering of materials and equipment and reduce the time spent by your group members on this. A night security service watches over critical equipment and supplies during silent hours. Animal facilities are provided to those groups who need them. Like the experimentally-based central facilities, groups pay for the consumables used in providing animal resources, but not for the staff or overhead costs.


In terms of scientific productivity, the above attempt to provide reasonably accurate figures on the financial support provided to EMBL groups fall far short of illustrating how well EMBL’s “culture” of having mainly young groups who work collaboratively with each other and make imaginative use of the common scientific facilities works in generating excellent research very cost-efficiently. This aspect is impossible to quantify but increases the real value of EMBL support considerably.

Funding: moving your lab to EMBL
EMBL is very flexible in helping new group leaders and unit coordinators move to the laboratory. As already mentioned, EMBL will aim to meet your research needs. The average research area per Unit is 1,594 m² with 154 m² being the average laboratory size per group. Costs for the refurbishment of laboratory space are covered by central funds. We can also help to transfer grants that are still extant and will take over the administration of the grant where this is permitted by the funding institution. The Unit into which the group leader is moving provides start-up consumables and equipment from its budget, but where significant equipment costs are necessary central resources are also available. If applicable, we are also helpful in transferring key group members from the previous institute to EMBL and are prepared to pay for the transfer of equipment from your previous lab where this is scientifically important and makes financial sense as compared to purchasing new equipment.
Funding: inventions
EMBL has a forward-looking and progressive policy on inventions made by its staff and visitors. While it claims ownership of all intellectual property generated by EMBL employees it allows the inventor to decide whether or not an invention will be protected and/or commercialised. A scientist is free to decide to publish and leave the invention unpatented if he or she wishes. Should a scientist decide to protect and commercialise an invention, our technology transfer company (EMBLEM) is available to take all aspects of the process forward and thus to free the scientist from having to deal with patents, financing, licensing, etc. EMBL has a generous scheme for sharing the proceeds of commercialisation with inventors once the costs of commercialising inventions are met from the income generated. No charge for EMBLEM’s service is made to the scientist.