Gemuenden (Felda), Germany
Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Chemistry from Justus Liebig University Giessen in Giessen, Germany.
Title of Ph.D. Dissertation
In Germany I was working with two groups, both related to mass spectrometry and both interested in biomedical applications, specifically doing imaging for bone tissue as part of a large transregional interdisciplinary collaboration on osteoporosis research. In the Department of Physical Chemistry under Dr. Juergen Janek I did research on biological samples with ToF-SIMS and later, in the Department of Analytical Chemistry under Dr. Bernhard Spengler, using AP-MALDI MSI.
“What I really enjoyed about the Coon lab was the collaborations that put you as a student in the position of the driver of a project with outside collaborative colleagues—that made for a really good experience because you had to take on some responsibility to manage the role of communicator towards the collaborators.”
What brought you to UW-Madison and the Coon lab?
During my Master’s I came to Madison as part of an exchange program between the state of Hessen in Germany and Wisconsin and did a rotation in Professor Coon’s lab. At the end of my stay he encouraged me to apply to come back for the PhD program. Up until then I hadn’t thought about this possibility, but since I really enjoyed my semester abroad and everyone was so welcoming and encouraging, I took the opportunity and I’m glad I did. It is a great university—lots of funding, the best instruments, and great people. I learned a lot from the older grad students and postdocs and scientists in the lab. It is a great place to grow a lot during your PhD.
Describe your transition from your Coon lab research to your current position.
My time at the Coon lab made me realize I wanted to be there through the whole life cycle of a project, from inception (why we do it), to executing the MS experiments, to interpreting the data so that it’s useful for biomedical applications. The Coon lab among many other things provides a great foundation for technical skills in MS, and through its emphasis on collaboration, I was able to work on the biochemical side, e. g. with the Attie lab in genetics, the Rey lab in microbiology, and with the Pagliarini lab on filling in our gaps in knowledge about mitochondria. What I really enjoyed about the Coon lab was the collaborations that put you as a student in the position of the driver of a project with outside collaborative colleagues—that made for a really good experience because you had to take on some responsibility to manage the role of communicator towards the collaborators.
My postdoc focuses on mitochondria and their relevance to human health, but on a more basic science level. I am driving my own project that is looking at mitochondrial plasticity on the molecular level and how that is affected by stress. I am happy to bring my multi-omic experience from the Coon lab into elucidating some of these questions while also learning basic biochemistry. I’ve also been drawing from other experiences I got in the Coon lab with data analysis and coding to start, along with another postdoc, a data analysis workshop for our colleagues. I’ve become a certified data carpentry instructor and will be teaching my first carpentry workshop in spring 2021.
How did you decide between industry and academia?
I was fortunate to spend three months as an intern at Thermo in Germany, which helped me foster my contacts back in Europe and get an insight into what industry might be like. When deciding where to move next, I felt that towards the end of my PhD I was “getting science,” doing it, communicating it, getting feedback, publishing it, and made the decision to continue doing that in a post doc. But also I learned what kind of environment I would like to have in my future career whether in industry or academia—a very collaborative environment working towards a common goal together. Scientifically, I am still very happy doing MS but also keep learning more about its biomedical applications and there needs to be more people who can bridge this communication gap. You can have a big impact either way, industry or academia, and the lab prepares you for both. If I can somehow make a difference in human health, even in a tiny way, that would be very exciting.
Earn your Ph.D. with us
The Coon Group is always on the lookout for new members. Professor Coon accepts students from several UW-Madison doctoral programs including Chemistry, the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB), and Cellular & Molecular Pathology.