The IRS Spring Academy is a yearly format similar to a PhD summer school but, as the name suggests, taking place in spring. It is an international and interdisciplinary format that provides spots for 25 participants, typically doctoral students but also post-doctoral researchers in the early phase of their careers. The overarching aim of the IRS Spring Academy is to support qualification projects which seek to explore the spatial dimension of societally relevant topics. In particular we seek to stimulate debates at the intersections of disciplines and seek to promote academics who wish to conduct research with a spatial perspective. The IRS Spring Academy is dedicated to stimulate conceptual debates around a spatial perspective and to support new methodological knowledge that is required to conduct the related empirical investigations. Moreover, the IRS Spring Academy is a brokerage event that supports participants to build up personal networks and it provides feedback from acknowledged seniors for researchers at the early stage of their careers.
Each IRS Spring Academy will take four intensive days of collaboration, discussion and exchange. The program combines different elements and thereby offers plenty of opportunities to debate conceptual issues and methodological challenges as well as to engage in a critical, yet constructive and supportive dialogue.
This year’s fifth IRS Spring Academy titled “Investigating Spaces 5: Spaces of Infection” is taking place as an inperson event in Erkner, again!
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) acts as a local cooperation partner in 2022.
Unknown infections and mortal diseases have been threats to humankind ever since. However, it seems that with the decrease of biodiversity, hypermobility of human beings and increasing population density, the outbreak and the spreading of infections have turned into a severe global problem. COVID-19 is only the most recent case that reminds us that quickly spreading infections are and have ever been a major source for crises.
A spatial perspective on infectious dynamics is widely underdeveloped in the interdisciplinary debate. From the geographical point of view, health geography has been a rather peripheral subdiscipline within human geography. It requires intimate understanding from adjacent disciplines, like medicine, epidemiology or virology that seem to be rather incomprehensible for most human geographers. Those disciplines that are specialized on infections in contrast, have mainly been interested in the mobility of infective agents and thus implicitly acknowledge the importance of a spatial perspective on infections. However, systematic considerations, how spatial contexts and socio-spatial practices affect the infectious dynamics is less well developed, though increasingly relevant. Moreover, the effects of epidemiological responses on socio-spatial practices are hardly acknowledged in this strand of the discourse.
With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, timespatial dynamics have become a major issue. For example, attention is being raised to the local situations in which the epidemic dynamics accelerate, the so called “super spreading events”. Urban planners discuss hotly how to explain spatial inequalities in epidemiological effects at the urban district scale. The risks of being infected are associated with certain social practices as well as with the lack of qualities in the built environment. And the infection is strongly associated with mobility and immobility.
Different infectious agents enact different time-spatial dynamics. For instance, food-borne diseases unfold different geographies compared to aerosolic contagion. Equally important are spatial aspects in societal responses to epidemics. For instance, policy makers rediscover national boundaries as a means to respond to the emergency, though one that has proven to be inadequate to control a pandemic. Likewise, vaccination campaigns have become more spatially differentiated, e.g. mobile vaccination teams for hotspot locations.
Spaces of infection, however, are nothing historically unique. On the contrary, while they are an exceptional experience in a biography of people, they have been of key importance in the long-term evolution of society. While COVID-19 is discussed as a crisis of epical dimensions, a brief look into history reveals that mankind has been tantalized by epidemics several times, and often even more severely than today, for instance in the case of the “Spanish flu” after the First World War or during the waves of Black Death epidemics that plagued medieval Europe. These incidents share similarities with the COVID-19 pandemic, yet they are also distinct from it in as far the society who experiences them has changed.
The fifth edition of the Spring Academy seeks to rejuvenate the intersections of spatial, social, historical and medical sciences, not only to make sense of the COVID-19 experiences but also to think more broadly on the complex interrelationships of virus borne diseases and socio-spatial conditions and development.
Prof. Dr. Karen Clay | Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College
Karen Clay is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College. She holds courtesy appointments at the Tepper School of Business and in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy, is a Senior Fellow at the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon, is an affiliated faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Law, and is a research associate at the NBER. Professor Clay’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Sloan Foundation, and the Heinz Foundation. Her work has been published in the Journal of Political Economy, Review of Economics and Statistics, and American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings. Before coming to Carnegie Mellon, Karen Clay was an assistant professor at the University of Toronto. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford University and her B.A. in Economics and Math from the University of Virginia.
Prof. Dr. Michael Emch | University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Michael Emch is W.R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Geography and Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). He is a member of Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Ecology Lab at UNC and he leads the Spatial Health Research Group. He has published more than 180 papers and two books mostly on infectious diseases including cholera, malaria, respiratory infections, tuberculosis, and COVID-19. He has received more than 20 million dollars in research grants to study diverse topics such as the role of population-environment drivers in pathogen evolution, how social connectivity contributes to disease incidence, and using environmental indicators to predict infectious disease outbreaks. He has served on panels for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Academy of Sciences and he has given many speeches on infectious diseases at institutions in more than 20 countries including the United States Senate.
Prof. Dr. Ulrike Beisel | Freie Universität Berlin
Ulrike Beisel Beisel has been appointed to the professorship of Human Geography with a focus on Geographical Development Research at the Freie Universität Berlin in April 2021. Her research focuses on the spatialisation of global inequalities and the conditions of social transformation processes, especially in the thematic fields of cultures of nature, planetary health and environmental justice. Her work is situated in the interdisciplinary field of feminist and postcolonial science and technology studies, the more-than-human geography approach and in global health. She studied Psychology and Sociology at the University of Bremen (Diploma, 2005), a Master of Arts "Environment, Culture and Society" at Lancaster University (UK, 2006), and a PhD in Human Geography at the Open University (UK, 2011). She then worked at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Lancaster University and most recently at the University of Bayreuth. She is part of the editorial collective of the open access book publisher Mattering Press and Associate Editor of the journal Science as Culture.
Dr. Natascha Bing | German Red Cross
Dr. Natascha Bing works as a research associate at German Red Cross (GRC), International Division Berlin. She supports in the adaptation of humanitarian approaches to the urban context and assists in defining and implementing methodological quality throughout the projects. This includes the evaluation of latest research findings and the implementation into innovative pilot projects. Natascha holds a PhD in African Studies.
Prof. Dr. Christoph Bernhardt | Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space
Christoph Bernhardt is head of the Research Area “Contemporary History and Archive” and deputy director at the IRS. At the same time he is an adjunct Professor for Modern and Contemporary History at the Department of History at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Faculty of Arts and Humanities. After studying History and German Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin he was an assistant professor at the Historical Institute of the Technische Universität Berlin (1994-1998) and earned his PhD in 1995 (published as “Bauplatz Groß Berlin”, 1998). In 2007 he earned his habilitation at the Technische Universität Darmstadt and has there taught Modern and Contemporary History. In 2017 he was awarded the title of an adjunct professor at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the Humboldt Universität. He is principal investigator of the DFG Project “Cultural and Technical values of historical buildings” (BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg) and in the Leibniz Research Alliance “Historical Authenticity”. He is also co-editor of the German urban history journal „Informationen zur modernen Stadtgeschichte” (IMS), managing editor of the book series „Beiträge zur Stadtgeschichte und Urbanisierungsforschung” (Franz Steiner Verlag), board member of the “International Committee of the European Association for Urban History” (EAUH), and of the German Urban History Association “Gesellschaft für Stadtgeschichte und Urbanisierungsforschung” (GSU). He has published books and articles in the field of European Urban and Environmental History and directed many basic and third party funded research projects.
Dr. Rita Gudermann | Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space
Since January 2020, Rita Gudermann is head of the institute-funded project to improve the digital infrastructure of the scientific collections of the IRS. She studied history, German language and literature and biology at the Free University of Berlin, where she earned her doctorate in 1998 at the Department of Economic and Social History of the Faculty of Economic Sciences on the topic of 19th century agricultural land improvement in Brandenburg and Westphalia. She then worked for many years as a research assistant at the economic history institutes of the Free University of Berlin and the Humboldt University of Berlin. Her main areas of expertise are agricultural and environmental history and media economics of the 19th and 20th centuries. In 2010, she founded a historical image database, which still exists today, as part of an Exist stipend from the BMBF. She also has many years of professional experience as an IT consultant in the field of DAM and ERP systems.
Prof. Dr. Oliver Ibert | Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space
In July 2019 Oliver Ibert took over the position of the director of the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space and Professor of Socio-Spatial Transformation at the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg. From 2009-2019 he was professor of Economic Geography at the Freie Universität Berlin. In 1991 he started to study the topics Geography (major), German Literature and Political Sciences (both minor) at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg and obtained his master’s degree in 1997. In 2002 he acquired his PhD at the University of Oldenburg and in 2009 he completed his post-doctoral habilitation thesis at the University of Bonn. In summer 2014 Oliver Ibert was a visiting professor at the Department of Political Sciences at the University of Toronto and in autumn 2018 he was a Hallsworth Visiting Professor at the Department of Geography at Manchester University. He is a member of the editorial board of “Raumforschung und Raumordnung | Spatial Planning and Research” and acts as a spokesperson of the working group “Concepts of Crisis” as a part of the Leibniz Research Alliance “Crises in a globalized world”. Since 2021 Oliver acts as spokesperson of the Leibniz Research Network “Spatial Knowledge for Society and the Environment - Leibniz R”.
Franziska Kellerhaus | German Red Cross
Franziska Kellerhaus works as the Health Cluster Lead in the International Cooperation Division of the German Red Cross (GRC) in Berlin. In this function, she supports the health-related projects of GRC abroad and engages in the development or roll-out of conceptual approaches. This includes work on community-based epidemic preparedness and response, as well as on anticipatory action for disease outbreaks. Franziska holds a MSc in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Dr. Andreas Kuebart | Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space
Dr. Andreas Kuebart is a research associate in the Research Area “Economy and Civil Society” since 2015 and a post-doc fellow at the chair for Socio-Spatial Transformation at the Brandenburg University of Technology since 2019. His research interests are situated between the disciplinary boundaries of human- and economic geography and focus on the geographies of socio-spatial processes in context of the digital economy and society. Thematically, his research involves topics related to the financial geographies of entrepreneurial ecosystems, and more generally to issues of regional development as well as health geography. Methodically, he has been involved in qualitative case studies and especially applies the techniques of spatial data science in his work. Kuebart studied Geography at Humboldt University of Berlin, the University of Florida (Gainesville), Stockholm University and Bonn University. In January 2020, he graduated as Dr. rer. nat. from Free University of Berlin. For his dissertation project he researched the geographies of knowledge in the context of entrepreneurial ecosystem with case studies on seed accelerators in the US and Germany. Since 2020, Andreas Kuebart focuses his research activities on the spatial diffusion of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Andrea Wiegeshoff | Philipps-Universität Marburg
Andrea Wiegeshoff is an assistant professor in modern history at the University of Marburg (Germany). Previously, she worked as a policy advisor for the German Council of Science and Humanities and as a project coordinator and research assistant of the “Independent Historians Commission to Revisit the History of the German Foreign Office in the National Socialist Period and in the Federal Republic.” She has held research fellowships from the German Historical Institutes in London and Washington D.C. In 2011, she received her PhD from Marburg University with a thesis on the German Foreign Service, which was published in 2013 with Wallstein. Her current research foci are the history of epidemics, health, and medicine, the history of the American and the British empires as well as the history of security. Recently, she co-edited a special issue of the Journal of Modern European History on “(In-)Securities across European Empires and beyond” (with Benedikt Stuchtey, Vol. 16.3, August 2018). Currently, she is preparing a co-edited volume “Ecologies of disease control: Spaces of health security in historical perspective” together with Sven Opitz and Carolin Mezes as well as a special issue of Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht about the history of epidemics together with Malte Thießen.
This call for applications addresses doctoral candidates and early post-doctoral researchers from spatial, social, historical and medical sciences.
The participants will be selected according to their academic qualification as well as the suitability of their current research project to the topic of the IRS Spring Academy 2022.
Applications must include:
a motivational letter (1-2 pages),
your CV, and
a short description of your current research project, e.g. abstract of your dissertation incl. name and affiliation of your PhD advisor(s).
We can only accept applications in electronic form. Please send your application via email to
This call for applications closes on 15 March 2022.
Selected candidates will be informed at the mid of March; enrolment for the IRS Spring Academy will take place until the end of March 2022.
In order to foster in-depth discussions and reflection as well as extensive opportunities for establishing and consolidating networks, both among each other and with leading international scholars, a maximum of 25 participants will be admitted to the IRS Spring Academy.
Tuition fees will not be charged. Meals, snacks and drinks during the event are included, as well as one evening reception and one dinner.
Participants are required to organize accommodation and make travel arrangements themselves and to cover these expenses.
For applicants who a) cannot receive any funding from home institutions and b) travel and accommodation costs would prevent participation, may receive a scholarship.
There is a limited budget served for participants in need. In the case of strong demand, scholarships will be divided between eligible candidates. Scolarships can only be granted to cover travel and accomodation costs.
If you wish to apply for a scholarship, please briefly explain your situation and indicate the amount that would make your participation possible.
The overarching goal of the IRS Spring Academy is to enable junior researchers from spatial, social, historical and medical sciences to identify relevant research gaps, to encourage them to use a spatial perspective in their analyses and to learn from leading experts in the field about theoretical approaches and innovative methods for empirical work. Participants will have the opportunity to present their projects in paper pitch formats and to access leading experts for one-on-one consultancies. We therefore cordially invite doctoral and early postdoctoral researchers in the social sciences, geography and history to join us for an interesting program to discuss their own research with internationally leading scholars and their peers.
The IRS Spring Academy combines well-tried and proven formats such as lectures and seminars with less common formats such as doing-research workshops, paper pitches, or academic speed dating. It offers various possibilities to exchange ideas, to discuss current concepts and methodological approaches, as well as to getting feedback on one’s own research projects from leading scholars in the field. A preliminary outline of the program can be found below.
The program of the IRS Spring Academy combines different elements and thereby offers plenty of opportunities to debate issues and methodological challenges as well as to engage in critical, yet constructive and supportive dialogue.
Academic Speed Networking | In a series of quick one-on-one meetings, participants will introduce themselves and ask each other questions about their backgrounds, research, and expectations of the IRS Spring Academy program. This will help the participants with quickly becoming familiar with each other and sets starting points for further exchange.
Poster Pitches | In three poster pitch panels, 8-9 participants will each be given five minutes to present their essential research questions, the argument and how it is relevant to the topics of the IRS Spring Academy. Each participant will prepare his/her individual pitch beforehand so it will be ready for presentation (max. one PowerPoint slide is allowed!). The pitches are followed by a discussion moderated by a senior researcher from the IRS.
Public Keynote Lectures | Internationally renowned researchers present their current research in a 45-minute lecture. This is followed up by a comment from an IRS senior researcher and a round of Q&A. The lecture sessions are open to external participants.
Doing-Research Workshops | In these workshops facilitators will give frank accounts of finalised or recent empirical research projects and provide practical and methodological insights regarding research designs and the implementation of studies with a spatial perspective. They will demonstrate how to collect and handle data, how to focus on the object of analysis, and how to deal with unexpected outcomes. Participants are encouraged to share the practical challenges in their own research, to reflect upon practical and/or ethical problems while collecting or interpreting data and to give constructive feedback on each other’s research strategies.
Meet the Editors | This format brings together editors and members of the editorial boards of journals in the field of spatial analysis to discuss criteria for selecting and revising manuscripts. To this end, participants are given the opportunity to get insights into working processes of editing. In the course of this session they will be able to discuss and reflect upon their own as well as their colleagues’ publication strategies.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we only accept participants who are fully vaccinated or recovered from a COVID-19 infection. Proof will be requested with the registration process.
We ask every participant to test her/himself before arrival in Erkner. For each of the event days a test kit will be provided to all participants upon arrival and participants will be asked to test themselves each day before the start of the program. Most of the program will take place outside in a “green class room”.
At the IRS COVID-19 conform hygiene rules are in place. Hand sanitizers and surgical masks (FFP2 standard) will be provided to all participants upon arrival.
This way we do our best to make the IRS Spring Academy a safe event.
For more information on the COVID-19 situation in Germany pleaseclick here