13 Mar 2024



In response to the devastating earthquakes that struck areas of Turkey and Syria on 6 February 2023, members and alumni of the Max Planck Society, some of them with family roots in the affected region, created an online mentoring programme connecting current and former staff and researchers from across the Max Planck Society (including Max Planck Law) with students impacted by the earthquake. This programme was named MAX Mentoring for Inclusion and Diversity in Science or simply MAXMINDS.

Mentoring aims to equip students with the knowledge and skills that are needed for the successful completion of their degrees and to provide guidance for their future careers. As mentees, they have the opportunity to develop essential skills, such as preparing applications for postgraduate degrees, internships, and job opportunities.

There are currently more than seventy mentees in this first mentoring cycle, with each cycle lasting six months. Over sixty mentors are linked to them, six of which are associated with Max Planck Law. Melike Batgıray Abboud ,  Zeynep Yazici Caglar , Biset Sena Güneş , and Ezgi Ediboğlu Sakowsky are all mentors as well as part of the MAXMINDS coordination team. Ezgi Özlü (alumna) and Alicia Haripershad are both mentors, with the latter having no direct family connection to the affected countries.

Zeynep explains that ‘MAXMINDS owes its existence to the tremendous collaboration of numerous Max Planck Society members from various Institutes and dedicated alumni.’ She emphasizes that from the beginning, there was agreement that diversity, equality, and inclusion require active support for disadvantaged groups and that the mentoring project would contribute to achieving that end.

For Sena, being abroad meant that the MAXMINDS project was the first opportunity for her and others to try to think of ways to help and to turn this thinking into practice: ‘Even though this programme will not be able to heal all the wounds of the earthquake for our mentees, it is my sincere hope that it will boost their self-confidence and rekindle their hopes for their future career steps’.

Amongst the mentors, there is a general feeling that they have also personally benefitted from the development of soft skills and the engagement in collaborative work. Alicia, for example, notes that ‘having an online training session before approaching my mentee was really valuable’. The word ‘rewarding’ frequently comes up amongst all the mentors. For Melike, it has even inspired her to dedicate herself further to the international support for people in disadvantaged and crisis-stricken areas: ‘It doesn’t have to be limited to this earthquake … we would like to continue’.

MAXMINDS is funded and supported by the Max Planck Society Diversity Excellence Fund. After the first funding period, their hope is to broaden the project to similar contexts in which young people are displaced and lack the career support they need.

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