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“Follow your heart”

A toast to our young scientists: On November 30, 2018, the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) held a graduation ceremony for the 50 students who completed their PhDs at the MDC over the course of 2018.

PHD-Prize winner Katrina Meyer with Prof. Michael Gotthardt.

Katrina Meyer knows what she wants: to continue her research into defective proteins. For her PhD thesis, the young biologist from Matthias Selbach’s research group looked into defective Glut1 proteins that cause genetic disorders. Her work, which was published in the scientific journal Cell, earned her the MDC’s PhD Prize. The €1,000 prize is sponsored by the Dr. Pritzsche-Stiftung and is presented every year at the MDC’s graduation ceremony in recognition of the best doctoral thesis. “I am surprised and delighted that my PhD work was such a success, and I hope this success will continue,” said Katrina Meyer after the ceremony. She hopes to find a postdoc position with a similar environment to that of Matthias Selbach’s research group: “We discussed science a lot and developed ideas together – for me, that’s what makes my work as a researcher so special.”

As is customary for winners of the PhD Prize, Katrina Meyer presented the findings of her work at the ceremony: Genetic defects in the Glut1 protein can cause it to lose its function and no longer be able to transport glucose from the blood into the brain. The mechanism discovered by Katrina Meyer could help provide a better understanding of other genetic disorders and offer a starting point for the development of treatments.

Do what feels right and give it your all

The graduation speech was given by biologist Eldad Tzahor of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Tzahor’s research focuses on cardiac regeneration, and his words of encouragement for the young scientists were therefore: “Follow your heart!” He explained that the important thing is not to follow a strict plan – after all, he decided he wanted to be a vet after reading All Creatures Great and Small, and yet ended up in basic research instead. It is far more important, he believes, to follow your heart and give it your all.

In light of the high quality of this year’s doctoral research, four more students were selected as winners of the 2018 PhD Prize – each receiving €250 from the Society of Friends of the MDC. One of these winners was Veronica Delgado-Benito. The young scientist from Michela Di Virgilio’s research group has one more year left at the MDC before she completes her PhD studies, but she already knows what she wants to do next: “I want to stay in research and find a postdoc position, ideally in applied immunology,” she says.

She is thus following the advice that the heart researcher Michael Gotthardt, who served as the commencement master of ceremonies, gave to the graduates:  “We scientists are never finished. We always keep going.”

Also receiving PhD Prizes were: