New Principle for Cancer Therapy: Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology 2018

Today, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.

2018 Nobel Laureates James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo. Ilustration: Niklas Elmehed. Copyright: Nobel Media AB 2018

From the press release of the Karolinska Institutet

“Cancer kills millions of people every year and is one of humanity’s greatest health challenges. By stimulating the inherent ability of our immune system to attack tumor cells this year’s Nobel Laureates have established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.

James P. Allison studied a known protein that functions as a brake on the immune system. He realized the potential of releasing the brake and thereby unleashing our immune cells to attack tumors. He then developed this concept into a brand new approach for treating patients.

In parallel, Tasuku Honjo discovered a protein on immune cells and, after careful exploration of its function, eventually revealed that it also operates as a brake, but with a different mechanism of action. Therapies based on his discovery proved to be strikingly effective in the fight against cancer.

Allison and Honjo showed how different strategies for inhibiting the brakes on the immune system can be used in the treatment of cancer. The seminal discoveries by the two Laureates constitute a landmark in our fight against cancer.”

Read more about the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Learn more about the possibilities of immunotherapies in our topic cluster. 

#LINO18 Daily Recap – Friday, 29 June 2018

After a week filled with impassionate lectures, insightful discussions and an abundance of scientific exchange we have come to the end of our  68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting – before we bid you farewell, take one more look at our highlights from Friday.

 

Picture of the day:

Farewell

Young scientist Nataly Naser Al Deen gave a heartfelt farewell speech to all #LINO18 participants.

Photo/Credit: Gero von der Stein/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

For even more pictures from the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, past and present, take a look at our Flickr account.

 

Blog post of the day: 

Young scientists attending a Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting frequently ask the laureates for career advice. In her latest blog post Tracing the Beginnings of a Scientific Career, Melissae Fellet describes  J. Michael Bishop’s and Harold Varmus’ experiences on career planning.  

Harold Varmus J. and Michael Bishop during the #LINO18 Agora Talk. Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Do take a look at more exciting blog posts.

 

Tweets of the day:

https://twitter.com/MohamedBrolosy/status/1012684984447045632?s=09

https://twitter.com/Kiaraso/status/1012633901024661504?s=19

https://twitter.com/embl/status/1012683990795456512?s=19

Last but not least, follow us on Twitter @lindaunobel and Instagram @lindaunobel and keep an eye out for #LINO18

 

Video of the day:

A glimpse of the final day of #LINO18 filled with inspiring encounters, fruitful discussions and last but not least a great party.

 

Obviously, this is not the only video of #LINO18! You are more than welcome to browse through our mediatheque or our YouTube channel for more!

 

This was our last Daily Recap. We hope you enjoyed this week as much as we did and felt the Lindau Spirit!

Goodbye Lindau Alumni! Let’s stay connected!

Women in Research at #LINO18: Rushita Bagchi from Canada

This interview is part of a series of interviews of the “Women in Research” blog that features young female scientists participating in the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting to increase the visibility of women in research (more information for and about women in science by “Women in Research” on Facebook and Twitter).

 

Picture/Credit: Courtesy of Rushita Bagchi

#LINO18 young scientist Rushita Bagchi, 35, from Canada, is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Colorado Denver, USA.

Her research involves elucidating epigenetic mechanisms that govern the pathogenesis of obesity and diabetes contributing to cardiometabolic syndrome. This work has great translational impact for development of therapeutics for treatment of obesity and diabetes (T2D).

What inspired you to pursue a career in science?

I have always been fascinated by the mysteries of nature and how scientific research helps unfold those in different ways. Curiosity has been my primary motivation for the pursuit of science in school and as a career choice. I always had an aptitude for biology, which formed the foundation of my continued interest in understanding physiological processes. Fortunately, I have had great mentors throughout my life who have inspired me to garner knowledge in various ways, and therefore helped me prepare to embark on this journey towards a career in biomedical research. The elements of challenge and surprise and my intrinsic curiosity continue to fuel my passion for science and research.

Who are your role models?

My parents have been my first and foremost role models. And I cannot express my gratitude in words for their unconditional love and encouragement.

When it comes to being influenced by ideals in science, I have been extremely fortunate to have had excellent mentors at every stage of my academic pursuit. Beginning with my teachers in grade school and professors in India, to my PhD and postdoctoral supervisors- each of them has had unique traits or skills that I have fancied of embodying someday. On a broader scale, I have been always in awe of the late Nobel Laureate Oliver Smithies for his simplicity and humble approach towards such an illustrious career in science. I had the opportunity of meeting him in person, and listen to him about his journey to the Nobel Prize. Being a woman in science myself, I have always found positive reinforcement looking up to women like the late Barbara McClintock who received the Nobel prize in 1983 for her pioneering work in the field of cytogenetics.  She was born in a family with lesser privileges, but overcame all obstacles to pursue her dream and devoted her entire life to research. Two other female scientists that I admire for their relentlessness are Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard and Elizabeth Blackburn. I continue to be inspired by these women even today.

How did you get to where you are in your career path?

While pursuing my undergraduate degree in zoology in India, I realised that my longing to learn was growing by leaps and bounds. To satisfy my curiosity and eagerness to learn more about physiology and allied sciences, I went on to do a master’s degree as well. Throughout both these degree programmes, I was blessed to have some extremely supportive mentors who always pushed me to set and achieve higher goals. My academic pursuit was put on hold for a short time due to personal reasons. But soon enough, thanks to my ever supportive husband, I was able to successfully enroll in the PhD program at the University of Manitoba in Canada. Dr. Michael Czubryt as my Ph.D. supervisor taught me valuable life skills, and most importantly to believe in myself. I began to understand and appreciate the intricacies of scientific research under his tutelage, and that continues even today in my postdoctoral training program at the University of Colorado Denver. My doctoral degree training taught me to be diligent, organized, critical and think independently. After successful completion of my PhD program, I moved to Colorado, USA to pursue my postdoctoral training under the supervision of Dr. Timothy McKinsey. My training in his lab so far has taught me to be fearless in doing the groundwork and pursuing novel research ideas. I am hoping that what I have learned from my mentors will help propel my career in biomedical research.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?

Every project that I have worked on till date had its own defining moments. Being able to elucidate the novel role of a transcription factor in regulation of fibroblast function in the heart was an exciting and “cool” project during my PhD program. Successful completion of complex experiments in this project gave tremendous satisfaction. One of my postdoctoral research projects investigates the previously unknown role of a chromatin modifying enzyme in metabolic disease. This is a very exciting and yet another “cool” project to work on as this has great translational potential.

What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself  or your work?

It is difficult to define a particular time when I have felt immense pride in myself and my work. The best rewards and proudest moments for me have been the recognition that I have received for my work in the form of opportunities to present my work at international meetings and grant support received from national funding agencies. Although, I must say that it is a matter of immense pride in being the first ever successful nominee from the University of Manitoba to attend the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. I was selected through a national research competition for graduate students in Canada, and secured the top spot to earn the nomination.

Picture/Credit: Courtesy of Rushita Bagchi

What is a “day in the life” of  like?

My usual day starts early at 6 am when I wake up and take time to go through my emails and newly published articles or perspectives in my field of research. Sometimes before heading to work, I try to spend some time catching up with the rest of the world on social media or doing data analysis. It is pretty much time to hit the ground running as soon as I reach the lab. Around noon would be time for lunch with colleagues from my and other labs in the division. Early afternoon, I take a little time to catch up on emails before returning to the bench again to wrap up experiments for the day by the evening. Most evenings are long, but I attempt to plan out next day’s work in advance to save time the following day. I am usually back home by 8pm, when I prepare and have supper. Before bedtime, which is conventionally around midnight, I read articles or reviews to keep myself updated about research topics of interest.

What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?

As a young scientist in training now, I aspire to transition to the next step in my career as an independent investigator in recent future. Leading a research laboratory focused on studying mechanism of pathogenesis of cardiometabolic disease, I hope to contribute to the biomedical community through development of novel therapeutic strategies to treat patients suffering from debilitating conditions such as diabetes and heart failure. I am also committed towards training the next generation of biomedical researchers when I embark on my journey as an independent scientist.

What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?

Music is food for my soul, and culinary adventures teach me the art of experimentation. When I am not in the lab, I listen to relaxing classical music and am deeply investing my energy in creating my culinary “masterpieces” in the kitchen. Being able to create a unique dish in the kitchen somehow brings me the same joy and satisfaction that I would get from the successful completion of a complex experiment at the bench.

What advice do you have for other women interested in science?

Patience and perseverance is what will propel women in the sciences. One needs to find mentors who support women in science- it does get very lonely out there. It is important to create your own network which comprises colleagues, peers, and role models who are committed to helping one succeed even in the face of obstacles. Nothing is impossible to attain once you set your mind to it.

In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in physiology or medicine?

With the current trend in use of gene editing technologies, especially the CRISPR-Cas system, we are not far from seeing the use of this tool in its current or improvised form in the clinic to treat patients harboring rare life-threatening genome mutations. Our knowledge of drug discovery tools and platforms has grown tremendously in the past few years, and this will pave the foundation for the emergence of novel and highly efficacious therapeutics for treatment of difficult to treat pathologies.

What should be done to increase the number of female scientists and female professors?

Opportunities and incentives to be retained in research should be increased for women. More women go to school and complete their degree programs successfully now than ever before. But not all of them find themselves in careers in science long-term. Individuals in higher seats of administration and policy makers are the ones who can truly effect a change in the system and help retain women as scientists and professors in the workforce. It is high time that gender equity, whether it comes to opportunities or pay scale, becomes a priority in our societies beyond political and social boundaries. Women need to support and mentor women, but so do men.

#LINO18 Daily Recap – Thursday, 28 June 2018

Thursday was the last day at the Inselhalle in Lindau but not the last day of the meeting. Friday is going to take our participants to Mainau Island, so while they are enjoying their last day on this picturesque island, let’s take a look at what happened yesterday. Here are our highlights from Thursday:

Picture of the day:

Lecture by Ada Yonath

Nobel Laureate Ada Yonath giving a fascinating lecture on ‘Next Generation Species Specific Eco Friendly Antibiotics and Thoughts about Origin of Life’.

 

Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

For even more pictures from the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, past and present, take a look at our Flickr account.

 

Blog post of the day:

What will the future of scientific publishing look like? In her latest post, blogger Judith Reichel reflects on the heated debate during the #LINO18 panel discussion ‘Publish or Perish’.

#LINO18 panel discussion ‘Publish or Perish’. Photo/Credit: Patrick Kunkel/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Do take a look at more exciting blog posts.

 

Tweets of the day:

https://twitter.com/martina_kapitza/status/1012440530125508608

Last but not least, follow us on Twitter @lindaunobel and Instagram @lindaunobel and keep an eye out for #LINO18

 

Video of the day:

Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie talks about his experiences in Lindau and shares that the best part of the meetings are the interactions with young scientists.

 

Obviously, this is not the only video from yesterday and today! You are more than welcome to browse through our mediatheque or our YouTube channel for more!

 

Tomorrow you will receive our last daily recap of the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Then it will be over with the  highlights in a blink of an eye. The daily recaps feature blog posts, photos and videos from the mediatheque.

Women in Research at #LINO18: Kayoko Shioda from Japan

This interview is part of a series of interviews of the “Women in Research” blog that features young female scientists participating in the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting to increase the visibility of women in research (more information for and about women in science by “Women in Research” on Facebook and Twitter).

Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Kayoko Shioda

#LINO18 young scientist, Kayoko Shioda, 30, from Japan, ia a 2nd year Ph.D. student at Yale University.

Her research is about epidemiology of infectious diseases with a focus on vaccine preventable diseases. She is studying the population-level impact of vaccines against pneumococcus both in developing and developed countries. Her goal is to generate evidence to help control infectious diseases more effectively, in collaboration with hospitals, government, and international organisations. Enjoy the interview with Kayoko and get inspired!

 

What inspired you to pursue a career in science?

My goal was formulated in my childhood when my family moved from Japan, our home country, to the Republic of South Africa. Living there for three years, I noticed a number of things that were different there. I learned that the burden of HIV/AIDS was extremely high in South Africa. I saw many families in rural area suffering from zoonosis, which you do not often see in Japan. I observed and also experienced racial discrimination a number of times. I was deeply shocked by differences in poverty levels, life expectancy, education, safety, infrastructure, and so on. These days in South Africa taught me numerous life lessons and changed my perspectives. As I grew up, I realised that these issues are intricately connected to each other, requiring a multidisciplinary approach to address them from multiple fronts. Because I was especially interested in infectious diseases and zoonosis, I decided to pursue a career in veterinary medicine and public health. I am truly grateful for my parents who gave me an opportunity to live in South Africa and to find my lifework.

Who are your role models?

Although I have many role models – both males and females – here I will introduce one of my female role models, Dr. Tomoko Ishibashi. Dr. Ishibashi, who is also a veterinarian, has led a number of programs to improve animal welfare, food safety, and veterinary education at World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. She is also a bright, strong mother of two children. I met her when I was an intern at OIE during the veterinary medicine program. She taught me ways to make contributions towards solving global health issues as a veterinarian and showed me how to balance work and personal life, which is important to many of us. I am truly delighted that I had the chance to get to know her, because it was challenging to imagine how to develop a career as a female veterinarian, especially because the veterinary medicine program at the University of Tokyo did not have any female professors when I was a student.

Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Kayoko Shioda

How did you get to where you are in your career path?

My dream to become a veterinarian persisted after coming back from South Africa, so I matriculated in a 6-year veterinary program at the University of Tokyo. Among a broad range of topics taught in the program, I was drawn to infectious diseases and decided to conduct research on the canine distemper virus for my dissertation. I studied genetic mutations of a new strain of this virus isolated from a canine case and how these mutations affect their phenotypes using cell lines and animal models. I was also strongly inspired by the concept of epidemiology and public health when I took these classes in my fourth year. I learned that veterinarians play important roles in the field of global health. Stories about veterinarians working in African countries to respond to outbreaks of various infectious diseases were particularly interesting to me, as I always wanted to go back to and work in African countries where my dream was formulated. The courses made me realise that I would like to be involved in global health initiatives as a veterinarian, although I was not sure about concrete steps to achieve this goal.
During the last two years of the veterinary program, I learned through internships and talking to faculties and alumni, that one way to achieve my goal is to obtain a master’s degree and learn more about public health and epidemiology. Thus, I decided to go to a Master of Public health (MPH) program at Emory University. I chose to study abroad to expand my network and improve my English skills to work globally. Emory provided great opportunities to be involved in international collaborative projects.
My days at Emory changed my life. As many international students’ experience, it was not easy for me to study everything in English and live in Atlanta without a car and with a limited amount of student loans. However, it gave me an opportunity to make the first step towards my dream, which is to work as an intern at WHO Country Office for Thailand for several months. One of the projects I worked on in Thailand was to control leptospirosis infections in the Northeast Thailand, which became a topic of my MPH thesis. It was my first real experience in conducting a global health project, and I realised that this is my lifework.
Towards the end of the master’s program at Emory, I was applying for more than 50 jobs. Getting a job in the field of global health as an immediate graduate was challenging, because most of the positions require at least a few years of full-time work experience. Thanks to recommendation from my supervisor, Dr. Justin Remais, I was hired by the Division of Viral Diseases at CDC, which had been my dream place. I worked on infectious disease surveillance, outbreak response, and epidemiological research on the gastroenteritis team with Drs. Aron Hall and Ben Lopman and other wonderful colleagues for two years.
Through projects at CDC, I learned how to establish a nation-wide disease surveillance program and strategies for reducing limitations and collecting meaningful data. I also realised that, while surveillance systems collect a substantial amount of data, the use of them is often limited to simple descriptive analyses. Therefore, I decided to pursue a doctorate at Yale to learn methodology of mathematical modeling and explore additional utilities of such data. I would like to contribute to the characterisation of infectious disease dynamics and guide future interventions that can impact public health.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?

One of the unforgettable projects was a response to an outbreak of limb weakness in the U.S. in 2014. State health departments noticed that there were an unusual number of children who suddenly could not move their arms or legs. The etiology and progression of this syndrome was unknown. To address this issue, CDC started a national surveillance within a couple of weeks of the first notification of the cluster in collaboration with clinicians and local health departments. As a research fellow at CDC, I helped collect clinical and epidemiological information and specimens from patients in order to gain a better understanding of the disease and to identify an etiology. Although it was the most challenging project that I have ever worked on, it taught me a number of important lessons, including how to develop a case definition, design a case report form, and formulate a laboratory-testing algorithm.

What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself  or your work?

I feel honoured and proud when I work with multidisciplinary teams to solve global health issues. Team work is essential, as public health cannot be improved by a single person. One of the most memorable is an international response against the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa in 2014-2015. My work at CDC was a miniscule part of the whole movement, but I felt that my work was an essential part of the response. I am so grateful that I am granted the opportunity to continue my lifework, because it is an incredible honour to make a difference in people’s lives through populational health.

What is a “day in the life” of Kayoko like?

During semesters, I take classes and help with courses as a teaching assistant. For example, in one of the courses at Yale School of Public Health, I lead a 2-hour computer lab every week to teach how to apply epidemiological knowledge and statistical skills that students learn through lectures to real world data or simulated data. Outside classes, I work on research projects at my desk in the lab, at magnificent university libraries, or cozy cafes around Yale. In between course work and working on my thesis, I spend time on a collaborative project with WHO and countries in Latin America and Africa to evaluate the impact of vaccines against pneumococcus in these countries. In the summer of my first year of the Ph.D. program, I went to Malawi for a few months to conduct research on infectious diseases in collaboration with Malawi Liverpool Welcome Trust Research Center. I also work part-time for a start-up company in Japan to develop a small, mobile blood testing kit that can run PCR and ELISA for multiple specimens simultaneously using a very small amount of blood in a short time without any preprocessing of the whole blood.

Picture/Credit: Kayoko Shioda

What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?

When I was younger, I was not sure if I wanted to work in academia, government, international organisations, or private firms. Thus, I tried to experience each of them for various durations to learn how it is to work in these sectors. After doing so, I am hoping to pursue my career in academia, becoming a faculty member who can generate evidence to help control infectious diseases more effectively, in collaboration with hospitals, government, and international organisations. I hope to be a professor who can inspire and support students through courses and research projects.

What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?

I have been playing percussion in wind bands and orchestras since my childhood. I am currently a member of Berkeley College Orchestra at Yale University. I also love playing with my dog, Winston.

What advice do you have for other women interested in science?

There are a number of ways to work in science / physiology and medicine. You can be a medical doctor, nurse, pharmacist, veterinarian, public health practitioner, researcher, epidemiologist, and so on. If you are not sure, I would recommend that you explore your options by talking to people who are doing these jobs or doing internships or job shadowing. You may be surprised by how willing people are to help you with your career.

In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in physiology or medicine?

Personalised medicine would be one of them. I have also been intrigued by the surge of machine learning, deep learning, and AI in medicine and public health, which will likely trigger impactful change and innovation. I am looking forward to learning more about next breakthroughs during the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting!

What should be done to increase the number of female scientists and female professors?

I believe there is a need to discuss gender diversity based on data. There are many anecdotes of personal experiences, with some arguing that that there has been enough support for female researchers, and others saying the opposite. We need more quantitative and qualitative data to guide our discussion. An initiative to collect data has just started in Japan, led by the Japan Science and Technology Agency. I have been participating in their symposiums and workshops to learn more about the current situation in Japan and would like to help disseminate the information so that we can have more constructive discussions on this topic.


#LINO18 Daily Recap – Wednesday, 27 June 2018

With Wednesday ending, we are striding towards the last two days of the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting – but that most certainly does not mean that the next days will be any less exciting than the previous ones. Talking about exciting days, let’s go take a look at some of yesterday’s highlights!

 

Video of the day:

The panel discussion ‘Publish or Perish’ with Nobel Laureates Randy Schekman and Harold Varmus was a heated debate on the role of high-impact scientific journals, transparency in the publication process and the responsibilities of publishers and scholars. 

 

 

Obviously, this is not the only video of #LINO18! You are more than welcome to browse through our mediatheque or our YouTube channel for more!

 

Picture of the day:

Science Breakfast

Nobel Laureate Tim Hunt enjoying a light-hearted conversation with young scientists during the Science Breakfast of #LINO18

Photo/Credit : Patrick Kunkel/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

For even more pictures from the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, past and present, take a look at our Flickr account.

 

Blog post of the day:

We can’t wait for the Bavarian Evening taking place tonight! On our blog, Alaina Levine proposes some Dos and Don’ts  for the penultimate #LINO18 party, and she also lifts a little surprise of the night…

Photo/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Do take a look at more exciting blog posts.

 

Tweets of the day:

 

Last but not least, follow us on Twitter @lindaunobel and Instagram @lindaunobel and keep an eye out for #LINO18

 

Over the course of the next two days, we will keep you updated on the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting with our daily recaps. The idea behind it is to bring to you the day’s highlights in a blink of an eye. The daily recaps will feature blog posts, photos and videos from the mediatheque.

Women in Research at #LINO18: Lisa Nicholas from Malaysia

This interview is part of a series of interviews of the “Women in Research” blog that features young female scientists participating in the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting to increase the visibility of women in research (more information for and about women in science by “Women in Research” on Facebook and Twitter).

 

Photo/Credit: Lisa Nicholas/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

#LINO18 young scientist Lisa Nicholas, 34, from Malaysia, is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Metabolic Science, University of Cambridge, UK.

We know that having an unhealthy (higher) body weight when you are pregnant can program a higher risk of both obesity and diabetes in the child, which can persist into adult life. How this happens is not entirely due to simply a transfer of “defective” genes from mother to child but rather exposure of the developing fetus to an obesogenic environment whilst in the womb. Lisa’s research is focused on defining the changes in insulin-secreting pancreatic β-cells of offspring exposed to maternal obesity that causes it to function improperly. She also wants to find out if these changes are the same or different between male and female offspring exposed to maternal obesity to determine if one sex is more at risk than the other. Enjoy the interview with Lisa and get inspired!

 

What inspired you to pursue a career in science?

Science has always been a natural fit for me and as I progressed through school I developed an interest in mammalian physiology and consequently pursued a biomedical science degree. During my undergraduate studies, I was inspired by a series of lectures by Prof. Caroline McMillen on developmental programming, i.e., how poor developmental experience, for example, in terms of maternal physiology and lifestyle can have a profound and long-lasting impact on the health of offspring. Something inside me lit up and I was hooked! Consequently, I pursued an Honours degree and then a PhD with Prof McMillen. One thing has led to another and I still find myself loving my job and I am good at what I do so I am sticking with it! This field of research continues to motivate me, and I hope that my contributions are making a meaningful difference no matter how big or small.

Who are your role models?

I do not have particular role models. I am inspired by people with a strong work ethic, who are relentless in their pursuit of answers to important questions and who do this to make the world a better place.

How did you get to where you are in your career path?

I believe that hard work, perseverance, great sponsors and serendipity is how I have gotten to where I am today. I had a successful PhD under the encouragement and sponsorship of Prof Caroline McMillen. In addition to my research, I won a couple of prizes for science communication, was awarded two international awards, presented at numerous international conferences and secured funding for a research visit to the University of Cambridge. I ended my PhD on a high but was soon faced with the struggle of securing my first job. I started out full of confidence, but this was slowly dwindling with every rejection when I did not even hear back from anyone, which was usually the case. Consequently, I had to broaden my geographic horizons and decided to also apply for positions outside of my home country of Australia. I eventually landed a position in Sweden working on pancreatic islets in a knockout mouse model. Although I had no experience at the time in working with both mice and in islet research, Prof Hindrik Mulder, the PI of the lab was willing to take a chance on me. I also have a very supportive wife who was willing to make the move with me from Australia to Sweden in the middle of Swedish winter! I spent the next two years working very hard to prove to Hindrik that his instincts were right about me. During that time, I published three papers and was successful in obtaining a couple of small grants. It also became clear to me that I would like to focus my research career on studying islets in the context of developmental programming. In order to be able to do this and to drive my own research, I applied for and was successful in obtaining a fellowship from the Australian Health and Medical Research Council to work with Prof Susan Ozanne at the University of Cambridge on her mouse model of maternal obesity. Although this meant yet another move, this time from Sweden to the UK, I have so far had a happy and successful two and a half years in Cambridge. This has also been made easier by the fact that my wife has also been able to develop her own career in the UK. Being far away from family, however, still remains a challenge.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?

Working with sheep has definitely been one of the coolest things I have done in research. During my PhD I worked on a sheep model of maternal periconceptional obesity. Consequently, I spent a lot of time in a farm setting, taking blood from new born lambs, performing glucose tolerance tests etc. I also got to be involved in embryo transfer experiments from donor to recipient ewes working with scientists who were involved in producing Australia’s first cloned sheep, Matilda!

 

Photo/Credit: Lisa Nicholas/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself or your work?

That has to be when I was awarded a C J Martin Fellowship from the Australian Health and Medical Research Council.

What is a “day in the life” of Lisa like?

I am an early bird so my day at work starts early, usually before 7 am. I love this time of day when it is quiet in the lab/office before the hustle and bustle of the day begins. I usually spend most of my time either in the lab or in the animal facility. If I have any reading and writing to do, I usually set aside whole days to do this rather than to split my day. I find that I work better this way.

What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?

To be a successful scientist who is able to maintain a healthy work/life balance!

What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?

My two joys in life are cooking and traveling.

What advice do you have for other women interested in science?

Go for it! Be brave and persistent, stay positive and find a good sponsor who is willing to speak up about your strengths to others.

In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in physiology or medicine?

I think the next great breakthrough in medicine will be the clinical use of human pluripotent stem cells for regenerative therapy to treat diseases such as diabetes.

What should be done to increase the number of female scientists and female professors?

I think universities and institutes should make a conscious effort to hire and support talented female scientists. I think fellowships geared towards scientists returning after a career break or that offer the flexibility of combining work with other commitments such as caring responsibilities are also invaluable. These will be especially useful for female scientists who have taken time off work to start a family. I also think it is important for promising younger researchers to be actively sponsored by members of the faculty. It goes a long way when someone who is well established vouches for you.

#LiNO18 Daily Recap – Tuesday, 26 June 2018

We are already three days into this year’s Lindau Meeting and there are so many interesting things happening. We have collected a huge amount of exhilarating pictures, exceptional lectures and thought-provoking blog contributions. So as you can imagine there is so much more you should definitely check out on our mediatheque. For now enjoy some of yesterday’s highlights below!

 

Picture of the day:

Poster Session

Mohammed El-Brolosy explaining his research to other young scientists and Nobel Laureate Bruce Beutler 

Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

For even more pictures from the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, past and present, take a look at our Flickr account.

 

Blog post of the day:

In her latest blog post, science journalist Alaina Levine describes the challenges of improving health care in developing nations and presents some exciting initiatives of #LINO18 young scientists Svenja Kohler from Germany, Nataly Naser Al Deen from Lebanon and Jeerapond Leelawattanachai from Thailand. 

 

Do take a look at more exciting blog posts.

 

Tweets of the day:

Last but not least, follow us on Twitter @lindaunobel and Instagram @lindaunobel and keep an eye out for #LINO18

 

 

Video of the day:

Young scientist Arunima Roy from the University of Würzburg comments on the psychology of the post-factual problem, describing her research on ADHD and how it can help to understand people’s inability to pay attention.

 

 

Obviously, this is not the only video from yesterday and today! You are more than welcome to browse through our mediatheque or our YouTube channel for more!

 

Over the course of the next three days, we will keep you updated on the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting with our daily recaps. The idea behind it is to bring to you the day’s highlights in a blink of an eye. The daily recaps will feature blog posts, photos and videos from the mediatheque.

 

Women in Research at #LINO18: Mariana Alves from Portugal

This interview is part of a series of interviews of the “Women in Research” blog that features young female scientists participating in the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting to increase the visibility of women in research (more information for and about women in science by “Women in Research” on Facebook and Twitter).

 

Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Mariana Rama Pedro Alves

#LINO18 young scientist Mariana R. P. Alves, 23, from Portugal, is a PhD student at the EMBL in the Developmental Biology Unit, Germany.

It’s fascinating how animals evolve from a single cell to a complex embryo, but many of the mechanisms at play are yet to be understood in detail. In Mariana’s lab they have the fruit fly as a model and follow the motto “seeing is believing”, so they use imaging techniques to understand how a single cell evolves into an embryo. Specifically, she wants to understand the mechanisms underlying how the spatiotemporal activity of enhancers (regions bound by transcription factors that promote or repress gene expression) is regulated and contributes to complex gene expression patterns during development. If you want to know more, be sure to check their latest paper. Enjoy the interview with Mariana and get inspired!

 

What inspired you to pursue a career in science?

I had a wide spectrum of possibilities in my mind, including literature or journalism, before I decided for my BSc in Biochemistry. What finally drove me to science was the will to contribute to society in the form of a meaningful and translational discovery, such as a vaccine. I was also attracted by the idea that biochemistry is a very challenging subject. Ironically, during my undergraduate studies, I discovered my passion for basic research rather than for translational or clinical research. The pursuit of discovering unknown molecular mechanisms is what is driving me to do research and be a member of the scientific community now.

Who are your role models?

Several people have inspired me. Hard-workers. People with clear work and life philosophies and principles that make me think “wow, how haven’t I thought of this?!” Courageous and bold people who don’t stick to the “norm”. Several friends or colleagues I have met along the way have inspired me in that sense. Over time, I dedicated to podcasting and radio broadcasting, I interviewed over 100 international scientists and found inspiration in most of them. I would highlight names such as Oliver Smithies, Marina Cortes, Martin Chalfie or Tiago Brandao Rodrigues. Marina Cortes is a very special example, because she studies Cosmology, a field completely unrelated to mine, but nevertheless listening to her gave me such an energy rush, such a hype! She was a ballerina first – something I relate to because I also dreamed of being one before I entered high school and broke my ankle – and she currently hikes the world’s highest mountains. I was very inspired by her enthusiasm regarding people having several passions instead of “funnelling” what you dedicate your life to. The ultimate women in science role model is my friend and Lindau Alumni Renata Gomes. Wise and generous, two of the 100 adjectives that could be used to describe her, Renata has been a role model since I met her. Some of the most impactful encounters prior to my time as a PhD student have been with women in science. I would also like to mention Dr. Carlos Faro, someone I would call in time of doubt or when I had to make choices, who recommended Dr. Jose Silva’s lab for my first international experience and who was very enthusiastic and supportive about me gaining experience abroad. I am also very inspired by the women scientists who founded the non-profit organisations DrosAfrica, NativeScientist and Maratona da Saude. My family has been a good source of inspiration as well. Just to mention my father’s resilience and standards, my mom’s strength and generosity, my sister’s resolve to follow her own path or my grandmother’s personal history. Finally, I have a very deep respect and admiration for artists and creative individuals. I am very inspired by creative giants such as Lin Manuel Miranda, Pina Bausch and Beyoncé. What unites artists and scientists is a high level of motivation, discipline, creativity and resilience. The 12 consecutive hours we can spend at the bench are similar to the 12 h a recording artist spends in a studio or rehearsing a choreography. This extreme work ethic and relentlessness are, in my opinion, the qualities one needs to be a great scientist as well.

 

Mariana with Renata Gomes at the 64th Lindau Meeting in 2014. Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Mariana Rama Pedro Alves

How did you get to where you are in your career path?

In a nutshell: I think it was essential for me to have an early start in a lab, to get international experience and work in different labs. I also value the time I spent in my MSc a lot, which allowed me to mature my thoughts and ideas before starting my Ph.D. (and applying for several programmes as well!). In addition, I believe that it was important for me to follow my personal career path and dedicate the time I did to science communication and public engagement. I believe I can say that all these aspects added up to positively influence my personal development and development as a young scientist. Finally, I am extremely grateful for all the generosity of my supervisors (formal and informal) and everyone who helped me along the way, and my family who made it all possible.

I really believe my three years as a volunteer trainee during my BSc made a huge difference in my career path. Professor Francisco Ambrosio was really surprised when I knocked his door, still 18 years old in my freshman year of Biochemistry, to ask to volunteer in his lab. I am forever grateful to him for opening his door. It was the perfect lab for a first experience because it is one of the happiest and friendliest labs I had the pleasure to work in during my short scientific career.

Because I started early, after spending 1 year and a half in the lab during my BSc, including summer holidays, I was ready to spend a summer in a lab abroad, which I did in the second year of my BSc. This was crucial for my personal development and shaping the following career decisions. Two international experiences opened my eyes a lot. The first one was my stay in Cambridge, my first time living abroad and exposed to the atmosphere of a competitive research environment [2]. The second experience was a 6-week lab rotation in Copenhagen, in the lab of Kim Jensen. I loved Denmark, the Danes, and Copenhagen, and I had a great time personally and scientifically. Dr. Kim Jensen and his lab welcomed me warmly and I was able to contribute to a very interesting “story” that was wrapping up.

There is an aspect common to my summer internship in Cambridge and my MSc rotation in Copenhagen: both my previous supervisors were open for me to move on and try different things. This can be rare in academia and I highly value Prof. Francisco Ambrosio’s and Dr. Jose Silva’s attitudes – they could not have been more supportive. This was again true for my PhD applications, for which references from Dr. Jose Silva, Dr. Kim Jensen, and Professor Francisco Ambrosio were crucial, and I am very grateful for the time they dedicated and patience they showed helping me to move on in my career [3]. There are many more names to add to my thank-you list, indeed too many…

I applied to several Ph.D. programmes because I have broad interests and was curious about different projects and places. I benefitted from attending several rounds of recruitment procedures because I really got to know the PIs, the institutes, and was able to see very different research environments. I was able to make a well-more informed choice. The institutes are usually understanding of this. The most important thing is that you look at this as a 2-way process. Sure, they are interviewing you, but you are also making an informed choice and you should be critical and rigorous about what you want for yourself.

Finally, I am aware of the privilege I had in many ways throughout my education and the start of my career. I am extremely grateful for my parents’ investment in my stays abroad and am aware that not everyone has these opportunities. For example, when I was in my last year of the BSc, my work was selected for an oral presentation at an international student conference in Leiden. I didn’t have any travel grant but I saw this as a great opportunity, so I asked my parents to finance my trip. Since they would be paying my travel and accommodation anyway, my mom decided to join me along with a friend and my sister, and we took a mini-holiday around the Netherlands. I also feel that since I lived with them during my BSc, I had the time to dedicate myself to my studies, the lab and all my time-demanding extracurricular activities (radio, theatre, etc), since I was alleviated from all the burdens associated with living on your own.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?

This is a very easy answer: it’s my Ph.D. project, which I am currently working on. There is something very special about “seeing” molecular events rather than just graph outputs. I really like to dissect mechanisms and there is still a lot to understand regarding transcriptional regulation in development. I am still new to the Drosophila model and I am constantly amazed by the number of datasets and information that have already been generated for it, they are very helpful when you want to study certain molecular events and mechanisms in detail.

What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself or your work?

I would say, anytime a paper to which I contributed got published. But specifically, when my first first-author paper was published. This is a milestone for any researcher but in this case I felt double the pride because this work was carried out during my BSc. I decided to volunteer at Professor Francisco Ambrosio’s lab in my first year of undergrad and dedicated much of my free time from lectures, exams, and extracurriculars to it. A lot of times I would hear people making fun of me for being in the lab so early on, “wasting my youth time”… Finally, three years of hard work eventually paid off. It felt extremely good to have been able to produce a coherent and publishable story at such an early stage of my scientific career [1]. It was with this project and still in my BSc that I had my first poster and oral presentations including in international conferences.

I was also very proud when, in the summer of 2014, I overcame my fears and lived abroad and away from my family for the first time, to work at Jose Silva’s lab in Cambridge. This was a huge step for me and it paved the way for my definite move away from home 2 years later. Anyone who lives abroad will relate to the fact that there are always new challenges arising, and we should be proud of our daily courage. Here, once again, having people who support you is key – from my family over the distance to the crazily talented and generous Ph.D. student Hannah Stuart who was supervising me and always made sure I felt literally at home. At such an early stage in my career, she really shaped a lot of my “how-to’s” and research principles that I still remember and act by.

Several of my science communication/extracurricular achievements also made and make me proud: doing the press coverage of the Lindau Meeting 2014 for my university radio show, co-organizing the Stem Cell Exchanges Art Project or the coordinating of the video with which my MSc class fundraised almost four thousand euros for neuroscience research in Portugal.

I would also highlight other events such as being accepted in the EMBL Ph.D. Programme after having undergone an intense recruitment procedure or defending my MSc thesis in front of many of my friends and colleagues from my home university.

What is a “day in the life” of Mariana like?

Because EMBL is far from the city center, my day starts with a 20-minute bus ride. It sounds boring, but many EMBL employees take this bus, so there is always someone different to talk to. Then, I usually like having breakfast at EMBL’s cafeteria, because there are flaky and warm croissants. My day in the lab is divided between working with the flies, bench work and imaging and data analysis. The lab usually has lunch together. I usually meet with my supervisor once a week. EMBL has many interesting seminars to attend as well. On my way home, I get to see Heidelberg’s beautiful nature and especially in the summer, when the days are long, it is a very nice way to end the day. I really love Heidelberg’s old town, it somehow magically reminds me of the best features of several cities at home and abroad.

What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?

I would like to combine my curiosity for the undiscovered mechanisms of life with my will to impact society. During the next 3 years, I aim to discover how to do this and am certain that the Ph.D. and my time at EMBL will equip me with the tools to accomplish that.

What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?

On a weekly basis, I am learning German and French and like to spend quality time with my friends, going out for dinner or going to the movies. I am interested in science communication and science philosophy so I like to read about it or engage in related activities. Heidelberg is great to enjoy the outdoors, especially during summer, and I really like to get some sun or to swim, although research doesn’t allow much time for that, to be honest. I spend a lot of time listening to music as well – needless to say, I listen to a lot of Beyonce’ (but not only!). On a more sporadic basis, I really enjoy the “performing arts” so I like to go to concerts or dance pieces (being in Central Europe is great for that, especially for the contemporary dance scene, with Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater only 4h from Heidelberg); hopefully when my German is better I will be able to attend theatre plays as well. I miss performing theatre, which I did for several years in a company in Coimbra called Bonifrates. I also like to take photographs and really enjoy travelling. Currently travelling usually means visiting friends living abroad (being in Germany is very convenient for this) or going home to Portugal, which is always nice and refreshing.

 

Play about Women and Freedom. Photo/Credit Bonifrates

What advice do you have for other women interested in science?

Start getting experience as early as you can.

Try different things. I was super anxious to return to Cambridge after my summer there. I thought I would use all my MSc rotation time just to go there and start my thesis as early as possible, given my eagerness to go back and because of my fascination with the university’s atmosphere. I was disadvised to do so and rather try something different. I followed this advice and couldn’t have done better. After all, I had had only one working-abroad experience, and I would be very limited if I hadn’t lived and worked in a different country, institute, lab, and field. I believe that if I hadn’t been in Copenhagen maybe I would not have been so open to moving out of the UK to do my Ph.D. It was essential to gain different lab skills and meet another lab.

Don’t rush into a Ph.D. After I spent the summer of 2014 in Cambridge, my supervisor encouraged me to apply for a Ph.D. So I did, and it was a stressful but rewarding experience. I was called for an interview, which I saw as a major compliment regarding my career stage. The interview was unsuccessful (and rightfully so, I was not ready) and it was very hard for me to take that rejection. But fortunately it was a learning lesson, and it ultimately helped me with my Ph.D. applications 2 years later [4]. I also believe it was truly a blessing to have two years before my PhD to mature personally and professionally. With my MSc thesis research, I understood better what I liked (mechanisms!) and how to be a researcher. There is no such thing as too much experience. I remember asking Nobel Laureate Prof. Dr. Harald zur Hausen about this off-the-record after an interview for my radio show, and he insisted “Do a MSc first!”. Though this depends on the individual career background, of course, this is what I would recommend to everyone: Have substantial lab experience and try different labs before you commit to a Ph.D. programme.

Ask for advice. Don’t be shy! If people don’t have the time they will let you know, but if they do you can learn so much from them. Learn from as much of a diverse group as you can.

Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Academia can be tricky and there could be times where you need to stand up for yourself, for example, to claim credit that is due and missing. That can be daunting, you do not want to give a bad impression, but you need to stand up for yourself. And credit should be given wherever it is due. Also, do not let your hard-fought and sweat achievements be downplayed by people who will point out all the ways in which you were “lucky”, and don’t be fooled to state that yourself. Finally, you should be aware of “mansplaining” and try to stand up against it.

Do it YOUR way. Follow your instincts and passions, whatever it is that makes you a complete person. Don’t be fooled by people, as senior or important as they might be, who try to tell you how to live your life and who try to convince you that research lives cannot accommodate anything else. It is worth investing time and hard work in projects you believe in. Work hard, don’t fool around, but be yourself.

Take care of yourself. Research can be daunting. PhDs particularly, but it can also feel overwhelming in other stages. Too often there is this weight put on researchers that their failures (a rejected paper or grant, a failed experiment) or successes are direct measures of their personal worth. This can be hard to deal with. I wanted to bring this up because EMBL offers Mindfulness and Stress Reduction training on site, and this is a very important initiative, and I am very glad that EMBL is showing good practice by example by caring about the mental health of their employees – the instructor is Sonja Noss. I am taking the course. We promised Sonja not to make judgments (positive or negative) about it before is finished, so I won’t. But scientists should not be embarrassed of taking care of themselves and acknowledging that it can be stressful. This is where friends and good colleagues also play a very important part.

Celebrate milestones! I believe that no matter how small they are, our personal milestones should be celebrated. And I mean really celebrated. Publishing a paper, having a poster accepted, submitting a thesis, the first time an experimental procedure works, a tiny amount of exciting data, or an interview to the Women in Research blog… Often these events are anticlimactic and science has its lonely and non-eventful times, so we should not be embarrassed to fill our time with celebrations for our small, medium or big accomplishments.

 

Mariana involved in public engagement in London in 216. Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Mariana Alves

In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in physiology or medicine?

I hope that we find solutions for antibiotic resistance very soon. I also hope that the scientific scene will leap forward not only in terms of hard science breakthroughs but also from changes in the system. I hope we breakthrough in improving the health of labs, the mental health of workers, gender imbalance, and scientific misconduct of different kinds. Only by improving these conditions, can we keep incredible professionals from leaving academia and increase the chances and the number of great discoveries. 

What should be done to increase the number of female scientists and female professors?

Change is definitely needed and it is true that the academic culture is harder on women than men. I feel that it is less accepted when women are assertive. I think it will be very hard to change without some forceful rules, such as quotas for faculty positions, conference invitations, etc. At EMBL, I see many scientists with families trying to juggle life and research. This inspires me. It should not be such a surprise and inspiration but it is. And I believe that having a kindergarten on campus, for example, is a tremendous help for mothers in science. Another example of improved practice could be to protect women at the beginning of their contracts against dismissal due to pregnancy. Nevertheless, male scientists also have families and family duties. EMBL currently has an initiative by the Diversity & Equality Committee that encourages female scientists to join for lunch and share their “Women in Science” stories. Small initiatives like this can make a difference because they open dialogue and create awareness.


________________________________________
[1] It would be impossible to accomplish these things without a support network, in this case the whole lab – from Professor Francisco who opened the door to me, to Filipa Baptista who supervised me and all the co-authors in this project who lent me their expertise and also their time when I couldn’t be there because of exams or during revisions.
[2] I couldn’t be more grateful to Dr. Jose Silva for accepting my summer stay and welcoming me back to do my MSc thesis.
[3] I should add Dr. Renata Gomes’ generosity for providing personality references as well.
[4] Here again, the help of so many colleagues (advice, proof-reading, etc) was indispensable.

#LiNO18 Daily Recap – Monday, 25 June 2018

Yesterday, the scientific programme of the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting commenced. It was an inspiring day full of scientific exchange – this short recap can only give you a glimpse of everything that happened. You should definitely have a look at our mediatheque to see all the fascinating lectures!

 

Picture of the day:

Science Walk

Nobel Laureate Michael Levitt and young scientists enjoying a relaxing walk by the lake 

Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

For even more pictures from the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, past and present, take a look at our Flickr account.

 

Blog post of the day:

Never before have we had so many tools at our disposal to communicate and disseminate facts. And yet, the current general political and societal climate feels very anti-science and anti-fact. In her latest blog post, science writer Judith Reichel discusses whether science communication can bridge the gap and how Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty approaches the issue. “First and foremost, as science communicators, we have to base our stories and articles on facts and hard evidence,” he said during yesterday’s Agora Talk.

 

Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty and science journalist Zulfikar Abbany during the Agora Talk at #LINO18. Photo/Credit: Patrick Kunkel/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Do take a look at more exciting blog posts.

 

Tweets of the day:

Last but not least, follow us on Twitter @lindaunobel and Instagram @lindaunobel and keep an eye out for #LINO18

 

Video of the day:

To kick off the scientific programme, freshly minted Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine Michael Rosbash gave an engaging first lecture on the inner clock.

 

 

Obviously, this is not the only video from yesterday and today! You are more than welcome to browse through our mediatheque for more.

 

Over the course of the next six days, we will keep you updated on the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting with our daily recaps. The idea behind it is to bring to you the day’s highlights in a blink of an eye. The daily recaps will feature blog posts, photos and videos from the mediatheque.