Favourite Thing: I find discovering new things myself or by listening to other scientists really exciting.
Secondary school in Stuttgart, Germany 1984-1993
Biochemistry at Eberhard Karls University in Tuebingen, Germany, 1993-2003
PhD at Max-Planck-Institute in Tuebingen
Area of Research:
Find out more:
Me and my work
I try to find out which gene does what in development and disease.
In my research group we use zebrafish to understand which roles genes play in making a functioning body. We look at zebrafish mutants that have lost the function of some genes and check which bits of the body or behaviour change because of the lost gene. For example, if the gene for the muscle protein dystrophin is broken the fish can’t swim properly anymore because the muscle tissue tears. The same gene is affected in people suffering fromthe inherited muscle disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy. We hope that the zebrafish mutants will help us to understand the disease better.
My Typical Day
Emails, fish work, lunch, meeting, lots of discussions with colleagues, excel sheets, more emails, home!
My day normally starts with reading and answering emails. Afterwards I do a quick literature search for new publications in my field of research. Then I either do some experiments or work more on the computer. In the lab I’m working on in vitro fertilisation using frozen sperm. At the computer I’m creating a database with our bioinformatics people that can hold all the information about our experiments. Then I have lunch. In the afternoons I often have meetings with my group to discuss experiments and decide what to do next. I’m not very good at remembering things, so the rest of my day is spent writing down everything I’ve done and thought about. Then I do a a last check of my emails and talk a bit more with my colleagues. My project depends on lots of people working together and sharing their ideas, so what might look like a bunch of people just chatting is actually important work!
Genome sequencing and my research
Genome sequencing allows us to compare zebrafish and human DNA and find the genes important for development and disease.
The zebrafish genome is only one of three genomes that are being sequenced in very fine detail. The other two are human and mouse. The sequence of the zebrafish genome shows us that zebrafish genes are very similar to human genes in general, even the order in which they sit on the chromosomes is often the same. However, there are also differences and it really helps to know about the differences as well as the similarities. For example, for many genes zebrafish have two versions where humans have only one. It is important that we look a the correct version of the zebrafish gene if we want to find out what the gene does in humans.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Sceptical, nosy, a bit messy
What music do you have on your iPod?
Madonna, Eminem, Adele, Mozart, the Prodigy, Bach, Queens of the stone age, Johnny Cash
What is the most fun thing you've done?
What do you like to do away from work?
Running, playing xbox (and getting laughed at by my son at the same time), cooking, reading, watching TV, trying (and failing) to grow plants in the garden
What did you want to be after you left school?
when I was little I wanted to become a bus driver because I liked the big steering wheel. But pretty soon I figured out I wanted to become a scientist.
Were you ever in trouble in at school?
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Agreeing to run this big, scary project. At first it seemed very daunting, but it was a great decision to take the plunge. The project is already making a big difference to zebrafish and non-zebrafish researchers around the world.
Tell us a joke.
Why did the hedghog ask his friend to cross the road? Because he wanted a flat mate.