I haven’t started my secondment yet but plan on going in September 2019, when I’ll be travelling to University Hospital Basel to work in the lab of Prof. Christoph Hess (Department of Biomedicine) for 3 months, using the secondment award totalling 3000 euro.
I feel fortunate to go work in his lab because he is an expert in the field of immunometabolism and has published over 100 papers, including in high-ranking journals such as Cell Metabolism and Nature Immunology. He was also the convener of Cell’s Translational Immunometabolism Symposium in June 2018, which I attended last year.
Since the Hess lab is well-versed in studying mechanisms of immune cell function, I hope to acquire some valuable skills used to study immune cell metabolism, such as Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry and Proximity Ligation assays. Their department also has access to state-of-the-art core facilities, where I will observe and gain experience in the use of Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) and the Nanolive® Holotomographic microscope, two instruments that have allowed the Hess team to pursue innovative investigations.
As some of you know, I have joined RCSI as a StAR research lecturer in June. My plan is to establish a lab on ‘MechanoVascular Biology and Microscopy’. What do I mean by this?
The first part ‘MechanoVascular Biology’ sets the scope. I am interested in how cells in the cardiovascular system use mechanical forces to achieve their tasks. As mechanical and chemical cell functions are tightly related, both play important roles in health and disease. Most research has focused on one or the other aspect, but not both. The novel research field of ‘mechanobiology’ takes an integrative approach to better understand how physical forces co-regulate chemical processes on the molecular level. In my previous work at ETH Zurich, I have studied how fibroblasts sense matrix stiffness and respond to it. Here at RCSI, I want to study platelets in the context of thrombosis and, over the years, investigate their interplay with endothelial cells.
The second part ‘Microscopy’ highlights one of the major working horses in my lab. Following the credo ‘seeing is believing’, watching cells can tell you a lot about how they do things. I use microscopy to test hypothesis but also to discover unexpected behaviour. Over the years, I have developed several new microscopy techniques to look at sub-second dynamic processes, directly measure cellular tractions, or determine the nanoscale architecture of multi-protein structures. These are great tools to better understand how the processes starting from platelet activation and ending with the consolidation of the thrombus are regulated in space and time. For this we will use in vitro models, but I am keen to move in the future towards in vivo imaging.
By now, you may have noticed from my scientific viewpoint and my enthusiasm for technology that my background is in physics. I studied physics with a specialization on biophysics at the Technical University Munich. My PhD work at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry focused on electrical stimulation of neurons with extracellular electrodes. After a short postdoc at the Ludwig Maximilians University Munich where I studied bi-molecular binding kinetics in living cells, I moved to ETH Zurich in Switzerland. That’s where I have started with mechanobiology and super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, which I know bring over to RCSI.
A long way is lying ahead of me to cross the bridge towards clinical research. I look forward to having many inspiring discussions with you, already thank you for the ones we had so far, and hope that I can make a valuable contribution to the research here at RCSI!
Looking forward to seeing you at MCT Research Talks on 16th October 2017 at 12.00 TR4!