It is the sound of music – a remarkable partnership: Researchers from Leipzig and Nashville investigate molecular mechanisms

Tuesday, 24. March 2015 10:40 | Author:


by Carsten Heckmann (LUMAG, 01-2015, 03/12/2015): To name the cities of Leipzig and Nashville in a sentence, could comes up with the idea: it could go on music. Classic here – Country there. But this is no topic for this research report. There is also the research field biochemistry – with a remarkable partnership between both universities.

To bridge 7,500 kilometer is not difficult for Prof. Dr. Annette Beck-Sickinger and Prof. Dr. Jens Meiler (Vanderbilt University). Sometimes they feel more like neighbors. “We work extremely well together,” says the Leipzig professor at the Institute of Biochemistry. More than 20 joint publications have appeared since 2008, emerged from around 30 joint projects. 40 PhD students have participated in the exchange program between Leipzig and Vanderbilt, not to mention various symposia and summer schools. Read more …

Leipzig University – Research Profile Areas

LUMAG – Leipzig University

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Dicovering interaction mode of specific carbaborane derivatives with GPCRs at Vanderbilt University

Tuesday, 17. March 2015 14:45 | Author:

by Peter Schmidt (postdoc at Leipzig University): GPCRs have been shown to play a crucial role in a variety of diseases, such as obesity, metabolic diseases and cancer. Accordingly, they are an attractive target for the investigation of new pharmaceuticals. Di-carba-closo-dodecaboranes(12) (closo-C2B12H12 or carbaboranes) were recently established as pharmacophores. Their unique properties (hydrophobicity, three-dimensional aromaticity, etc.) make them interesting targets for drug development.

In this project, specific carbaborane derivatives will be prepared and used either as conjugates with peptides of the melanotropin (MSH) or neuropeptide Y (NPY) family, or as small molecules that impart their action via GPCRs to study and understand their influence on the selectivity and activity. NPY binds to four so-called Y-receptors, MSH to five so called MC-receptors that all belong to the family of GPCRs. Especially MC4, Y2 and Y4 receptors are of significance as they play an important role in metabolic diseases. Efforts to develop single-subtype specific ligands often suffer from unwanted affinity to other receptors with similar binding mode. We have already shown that modification of NPY analogs with carbaboranes or carbaborane analogs of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can influence the selectivity and activity.

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Max-Kade Scholarship 2014: Short-Reports

Tuesday, 28. October 2014 15:03 | Author:


2014 eight students on Bachelor- or Master level got the Max-Kade Scholarship to participate in ongoing research projects between Vanderbilt University and the University of Leipzig. Hereby there short research and travel reports:

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Announcement: Scientific and Methode Modules “Computational Structural Biology with ROSSETTA”

Wednesday, 15. October 2014 10:59 | Author:


Date 08 – 19 December 2014
Venue Biotechnologisch-Biomedizinisches Zentrum (BBZ), Seminar room 1.1, Deutscher Platz 5, 04103 Leipzig

Responsible scientists
Prof. Dr. Jens Meiler (Vanderbilt University)
Prof. Dr. Annette Beck-Sickinger (Leipzig University)
Dr. Jonathan Sheehan (Vanderbilt University)
Dr. Rene Meier (Leipzig University)

Teach theoretical and practical aspects of computational structural biology using the Rosetta software.

Biochemistry, amino acid structure, peptide bond, secondary structure, tertiary structure, small molecule binding, central dogma of molecular biology

Theoretical and practical aspects of protein sequence alignments, secondary structure prediction, comparative modeling, protein-protein and protein-ligand docking. Structure-based drug design, virtual screening. This course includes a laboratory section.

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Identification of new target GPCR at Vanderbilt University

Tuesday, 7. October 2014 12:56 | Author:

by Antje Brüser (postdoc at Leipzig University): I had the possibility to join Vanderbilt University from March 26th – July 11th 2014 as a visiting scholar to initiate a new project between our group (headed by Prof. Torsten Schöneberg) and the group of Prof. Larry Marnett. We focus in our lab on orphan G-protein coupled receptors (oGPCR) and the Marnett lab is working on COX inhibitors. Since years they have been interested in products of the COX-2 pathway and the identification of receptors which they bind to. In our new cooperation we have the knowledge and expertise to search and functional analysis of oGPCR. During my stay at the Marnett lab I could realize experiment for testing some GPCR and was able to identify new GPCR for prostaglandin glycerol-esters. These results now build the basis for a hopefully long and interesting cooperation.

Next to the very interesting work in the lab I did not only met nice people, I also had the possibility to discover parts of the US like Washington, DC, Memphis and New Orleans. I was very happy to join the group of Jens Meiler to their retreat to the Smoky Mountains for a weekend. Additionally, I had great evenings at Larry´s and Jens´ house and with the guys from the Marnett Lab. But the most awesome experience was the terrific southern American cuisine in combination with the very gorgeous people in Nashville.




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Biological evaluation of modified COX inhibitors at Vanderbilt University

Tuesday, 1. July 2014 7:25 | Author:

by Wilma Neumann (doctoral student at Leipzig University): After a successful start-up of a new collaboration project last autumn followed by a joint publication earlier this year, the group of Prof. Larry Marnett again welcomed me in their lab during my second research stay at Vanderbilt between May 21st and June 21st, 2014. Continuing our project on conjugates of cisplatin and COX inhibitors for use as antitumor agents, Brenda Crews, Cristina Daniel, and Kebreab Ghebreselasie actively supported me with the biological evaluation of new conjugates I had prepared in Leipzig. I am also very thankful to Cristina for introducing me to further molecular biology techniques and for her great effort performing numerous experiments within the short period of my stay. Besides cisplatin–COX inhibitor conjugates, we also continued with investigations on structure–activity relationships of carbaborane-containing COX inhibitors, our second collaboration project with the Marnett group in which we use borane clusters as pharmacophores to obtain novel COX inhibitors with improved inhibitory potency and selectivity. Further thanks go to Rosanne Delapp (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering) for performing ICP-MS measurements of numerous cell samples.

Besides research, I enjoyed the hot and often quite humid weather, exploring the different districts and parks of Nashville and entering the fray at the country music festival (CMA Music Festival).

The research stay again yielded lots of results providing the basis for upcoming joint publications and enabled planning of the next steps within our collaboration projects. It also gave me further interesting insights into the Southern Culture. I gratefully acknowledge generous support from the Vanderbilt-Leipzig collaboration project and the bilateral project-related exchange program by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD-PPP-USA).

CMA-music-festival Cumberland-River view-of-Nashville

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Research stay at the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC)

Monday, 23. June 2014 13:34 | Author:

by Thomas Ebert (postdoc at Leipzig University): From January 3rd, 2014 – April 4th 2014, I had the opportunity to stay at the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) in Nashville, Tennessee as a visiting scholar.

In our group in Leipzig (headed by Prof. Mathias Fasshauer), we focus on adipocyte-secreted proteins, so called adipokines, in renal dysfunction. To investigate adipokines in diabetic nephropathy (DN), a severe consequence of long-term diabetes mellitus, animal studies are vitally important. The group of Prof. Raymond C. Harris (Chief of the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension at VUMC) introduced the enos db/db-mouse as the currently best mouse model to study DN. Therefore, we were interested in their DN-prone mice and asked whether a short exchange would be possible. We appreciated the positive answer of Dr. Harris very much and in January 2014, I started my 3 months-trip to the “Music City” Nashville, TN. During the 3 months in Nashville, I was able to obtain knowledge in the enos db/db-mouse and learned basic techniques to study DN in rodents. Furthermore, Dr. Harris and his colleagues showed me how to investigate different renal endpoints. During the stay, I could even start working on some of our proposed projects in Leipzig.

Besides getting in touch with the lab work at Dr. Harris’ Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, I travelled a lot during the weekends and I was able to see many parts of „The Volunteer State“ Tennessee including Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga and the famous Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But Nashville is not just located in the middle of Tennessee but also just next to many other important cities of other States, such as Indianapolis, Louisville, Atlanta and Birmingham.

My experiences in Nashville will help me to set up experiments for our new projects in Leipzig within the IFB AdiposityDiseases. I gratefully appreciate the grant of the IFB supporting me during the research stay („MetaRot program“).

E_062014_01 E_062014_02 E_062014_03

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Announcemnet: Summer School on CHEMICAL BIOLOGY OF GPCR LIGANDS

Saturday, 7. June 2014 12:56 | Author:

Prof. Dr. Annette G. Beck-Sickinger
(Leipzig University, Institute of Biochemistry)
21-28 July 2014, Vanderbilt University

Many ligands of GPCR belong to the family of peptides and proteins. This includes all class B GPCR ligands, e. g. calcitonin, glucagon and the pharmacologically relevant GLP-1, from which modified analogies have entered the anti-diabetic market recently (e. g. Exenentide, Liraglutide, etc.). But also in the family of class A GPCR different peptide and protein hormones (angiotensin, bradykinin, chemokines, FSH, etc.) play an important role in physiology.

Peptide ligands have some unique properties. They can be obtained by solid phase peptide synthesis and chemically modified with specific side-chain protection strategies. This includes selective labeling with fluorescent dyes, radioactive tracers, biotin, EPR- or NMR- probes to study their biophysical and structural properties. Furthermore, to overcome the proteolytic lability of peptides, modifications like lipidation or PEGylation have been successfully introduced to obtain drugs that are on the market. Protein ligands are usually produced recombinantly and accordingly modification are limited to the 20 proteinogenic amino acids by classical techniques. Novel methods like mis-charging of tRNA and chemical ligation strategies will be discussed that allow including non-natural amino acids into proteins. By using expressed protein ligation a combination of recombinant production and solid phase synthesis leads to protein with full segments replaced by solid phase synthesis and accordingly semi-synthetic protein production.

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Leipzig PhD use high performance computational ressources for protein modeling

Thursday, 27. March 2014 16:41 | Author:

by Tristan Zellmann (doctoral student at Leipzig University): I had the opportunity to stay at Jens Meilers lab in Nashville from 11/27/13 to 12/06/13 as well as from 01/27/14 to 03/22/14 to complete the modeling for an upcoming publication.

During my stay, I had the opportunity to take part in two great, american traditions – arriving the day just before Thanksgiving, I got invited to an actual Thanksgiving dinner, featuring delicious turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, buttery carrots and even pumpkin pie. Another culinary and cultural highlight was a super bowl party complete with chili, buffalo wings and lots of snacks, even if the Seattle Seahawks seemed to dominate a bit too much. Besides these great examples of southern hospitality, Nashville itself welcomed me with untypically cold weather. On the warmer days, the beautiful centennial park was great for a walk. Being called “Music City, USA”, Nashvilles reputation for a vibrant music scene is also no understatement – on most nights, you can just randomly go into a bar for some great live music, even besides the country music Nashville is said to be famous for.

The beautiful campus of the Vanderbilt University, the cultural offerings of Nashville and the good atmosphere at the lab all made my trip very much worth it. I am glad I had the chance to experience the welcoming, open attitude of the people in the southern US.

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Research Stay at Vanderbilt University on Arrestin Proteins

Thursday, 13. March 2014 10:24 | Author:

by Lizzy Wanka (doctoral student at Leipzig University): In the autumn of 2013, I had the great opportunity to visit Prof. Dr. Vsevolod V. Gurevich`s lab at the Vanderbilt university for 12 weeks. Prof. Gurevich and his group work with arrestin proteins and investigate among others their binding to receptors and other signaling proteins. I wanted to study the binding of different arrestin mutants to NPY receptors and NPY receptor chimera. Together with Dr. Luis E. D. Gimenez, I performed various bioluminescence resonance energy transfer assays and learned a lot about the arrestin recruitment and the optimization of this assay. The discussions about analyzing the data were revealing and very helpful. I enjoyed the work in this lab and the great atmosphere as well as the activities with my colleagues.

The most interesting experience during my stay was Halloween and the preparation for this day. I learned a lot about the American way of life and made some close friendships. All in all, I savored my stay in the country music city Nashville.

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Max-Kade Foundation Partners with VU-LU Collaboration

Friday, 31. January 2014 4:44 | Author:

The Vanderbilt-Leipzig Collaboration is pleased to announce its partnership with the Max Kade Foundation to support the exchange of students and faculty between the universities. The Max Kade Foundation takes pride in participating and sponsoring various programs which encourage the exchange of academic ideas among universities and colleges in the United States and in German-speaking countries ( The foundation recently awarded the Vanderbilt-Leipzig research exchange program a grant to cover the travel and support of six undergraduate student exchanges, as well as two faculty exchanges per year. The students will travel to their respective university and join a research project under a senior supervisor. They will be engaged for ten weeks in the challenging and exciting scientific communities of each institution, while likewise being immersed in rich cultural experiences. During their exchange, the two faculty members will teach short courses which will introduce new technologies and research endeavors not available at the other university.

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Leipzig Post-Doctoral Fellow in Nashville / Vanderbilt University

Friday, 20. December 2013 10:28 | Author:


by Stephan Theisgen (Post Doc at Leipzig University): From 16th September to 14th October I had the opportunity to visit Prof. Jens Meiler’s Lab where I wanted to perform some structural computations to complete a pending scientific paper. This turned out to be a major task for 4 weeks only. But together with Dr. David Nanneman, Stephanie Hirst DeLuca and Sam DeLuca, we managed to finish this ambitious project successfully. In the process, I learned a lot about computational structural biology and became familiar with an important method in this field.
Beside the heavy scientific work, I enjoyed very much the special southern cuisine, visiting downtown Nashville and of course some country music places. After some self-studies of football rules and strategies, I decided to watch a football game (Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Missouri Tigers) in the Vanderbilt Arena. Even though the Vandi team lost the game, I enjoyed the atmosphere a lot.
Before I had to return to Germany, Jens Meiler invited us to a picnic at a beautiful winery. The wine was very good and the weather, especially compared to Germany, fantastic: 27 °C and sunshine.

To sum it up: a busy but very successful scientific exchange, where I learned a lot from very nice colleagues and discovered a beautiful part of the USA.

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Vanderbilt, Leipzig research collaboration sees strong results

Tuesday, 19. November 2013 13:03 | Author:


by Matt Windsor: During the past two weeks, the fifth international symposium between Leipzig and Vanderbilt universities was held on the Vanderbilt campus, as seven Leipzig faculty members presented a series of chemical biology-related lectures. The symposium offered an opportunity to highlight the ongoing success of the international collaboration. To date, there have been 17 joint publications between research groups at the two universities.

This summer, the first federally funded research grant resulting from the collaboration was awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The project is aimed at developing drugs for a specific type of protein known as a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR). The grant was spearheaded by Annette Beck-Sickinger, Ph.D., professor of Biochemistry and Bioorganic Chemistry at Leipzig, and at Vanderbilt by Jens Meiler, Ph.D., associate professor of Chemistry and Pharmacology, and David Weaver, Ph.D., assistant professor of Pharmacology and scientific director of the Vanderbilt High Throughput Screening Facility.

“We work on GPCRs that play a role in obesity and colon cancer,” Beck-Sickinger said. “We know these receptors. In Leipzig, we have set up biochemical assays that are necessary to study these receptors, a process that required several years of dedicated effort.”

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Workshop at VU: Mass Spectrometry based methods for protein structure analysis

Tuesday, 19. November 2013 12:42 | Author:

by Dr. Stefan Kalkhof, Prof. Dr. Martin von Bergen and Prof. Dr. John McLean: In an one-week curse 30 PhD students and postdocs of the Vanderbilt University were introduced to modern mass spectrometry methods and recent technical developments. The participants were made familiar with the theory of H/D exchange, ion mobility, chemical crosslinking, and labeling techniques using chemicals or radicals. Furthermore, to give the participants a better feeling concerning the potential as well as advantages, experimental challenges, and limitations many own projects and experimental protocols were presented and critically discussed. Finally, a session was used to discuss how one could practically utilize the techniques to answer current questions of participant`s projects.



At this point we especially would like to thank all participants for their great interest in the topics and the very active participation during the whole curse as well as Prof. Dr. Jens Meiler for the perfect organization.

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Vanderbilt Undergraduate Student in Leipzig

Tuesday, 19. November 2013 12:24 | Author:

Hannah Berke

by Hannah Berke (undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University): My two months spent in Leipzig were a wonderful experience. The work in the lab was informative and enjoyable and living in Leipzig changed my life. My stay in Leipzig was extremely fun and gave me the opportunity to travel and experience Europe and Germany specifically. The city itself is a perfect size, very similar to Nashville, and I lived in an area that was about a 5 minute tram ride or 20 minute walk from the city center, or “Mitte,” that is full of shops and restaurants. The abundance of parks and cafes made it easy to spend time outside – barbecuing, reading, and relaxing with friends.

I was the only American undergraduate working in the lab that semester, which was challenging at first, but extremely rewarding. I made friends with my roommate and became very close with a group of German students at the Universität Leipzig. They showed me all around the city, both during the day and at night, and I travelled with some to their hometown of Hannover one weekend. Getting around in a country where I didn’t know the language was difficult, but having friends that spoke the language helped me enormously. There was never a shortage of things to do in Leipzig, and if there wasn’t a musical event or café open, I would just walk around the city and visit historical sites like the Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Thomaskirche, and the huge Clara-Zetkin Park.

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DAAD RISE Program: Call 2014

Tuesday, 22. October 2013 12:04 | Author:

The German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, DAAD) announced a new call for its program “Research Internships in Science and Engineering” (RISE) for summer internship in 2014.

The program works in both ways. German and American Ph.D. students submit internship offers for undergraduates students for a duration of 8 to 12 weeks. German bachelor students can work as research interns at U.S. universities and U.S. undergraduates can work in labs of German universities. The DAAD provides stipends to help cover living expenses, the partner universities and research institutes provide housing assistance. The call is applicable for all fields of biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences and engineering.

Please visit for further information:

To promote the exchange of students from North America and Great Britain to Germany in the fields of natural science, engineering and life sciences To enable young German scientists to conduct research abroad
Offering Research Internship Offering Research Internship
October 1, 2013 – November 30, 2013 October 7, 2013 – November 24, 2013
Apply for Research Internship Apply for Research Internship
December 6, 2013 – Januar 31, 2014 December 2, 2013 – Januar 12, 2014

Students and researchers from Leipzig and Vanderbilt Universities with an interest in exchange activities with the other partner university are kindly asked to contact Mrs. Anett Albrecht for more information and assistance.

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New Grant supports joint Research Project between Vanderbilt and Leipzig Universities

Wednesday, 4. September 2013 13:30 | Author:

Annette Beck-Sickinger and Torsten Schoeneberg from Leipzig University and Jens Meiler from Vanderbilt University receive a grant “Ensemble Docking Interrogates Structural Determinants of Ligand-Protein Interactions” that is jointly funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). The grant will develop a novel docking algorithm that leverages Structure-Activity-Relations (SAR) and apply this algorithm to understand regulation of G-Protein Coupled Receptors (GPCRs).

Project Summary

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4th Vanderbilt-Leipzig Cooperation Workshop

Tuesday, 6. August 2013 13:38 | Author:

The 4th international scientific symposium was held with members of the Leipzig University and Vanderbilt University from the 6th to the 12th of July 2013 in Leipzig. The focus of this event taking place at the Biotechnological-Biomedical Center (BBZ) of the University of Leipzig was the further organization and consolidation of the university partnership (MOU) between Leipzig and Vanderbilt University. Likewise this event was set out to be a Kick-Off-Meeting for two new international junior research groups, which are funded by the State Ministry of Science and Arts through the European Social Fond (ESF) since July 1st.

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Leipzig Post-Doctoral Fellow in Nashville / Vanderbilt University

Tuesday, 6. August 2013 12:40 | Author:

by Menyhárt B. Sárosi (Post-Doctoral Fellow): In the spring of 2013, I had the opportunity to visit the laboratory of Terry Lybrand, professor of Chemistry and Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University. His group has extensive experience in computational studies involving ligand complexes with cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes, among several other key areas of research.

During the one month stay I became familiar with Amber12 and AmberTools12 programs with the scope of using them in a project involving carbaborane-containing cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibitors. More specifically, the target is to use computational methods to design potential carbaborane-containing inhibitors and to gain insight into their interactions with the COX system. After learning the essentials of the above mentioned codes and how to visualize and manipulate the structure files of large biomolecules, I have been able to prepare input files and run several test QM/MM calculations on one of the target systems. The subsequent steps of this project will be carried out in Leipzig, in a close collaboration with Prof. Lybrand and his research group at Vanderbilt University. Besides Prof. Lybrand, Jonathan Sheehan and Chris Moth have also been very helpful in explaining the above mentioned computational techniques and in giving advice concerning the computational analysis of COX inhibition. I also had the pleasure of meeting associate professor Jens Meiler and members of his research group.

The financial support for my research visit has been provided from the Bilateral Program for Cooperative Research Grants (DAAD-PPP-USA 2013) and from the Vanderbilt-Leipzig collaboration funds.

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Symposium and New Grants Bolster Vanderbilt-Leipzig Partnership

Sunday, 7. July 2013 21:51 | Author:

Two new grants and a summer symposium with workshops highlight ongoing collaboration efforts between Vanderbilt University and Leipzig University:

1) Vanderbilt University received a grant from the Max Kade Foundation in support of an undergraduate and graduate student exchange program in collaboration with Leipzig University. The collaboration is spearheaded by Drs. Jens Meiler (Vanderbilt University) and Annette Beck-Sickinger (Leipzig University).

2) The Meiler and Weaver laboratories at Vanderbilt University received a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK, NIH) for the development of “Small Molecule Probes to Investigate Structure and Function of Y Receptors.” This project is a collaboration with Annette Beck-Sickinger at Leipzig University, Germany who is an expert on Y-receptor biochemistry. The project is the first federally funded chemical biology research grant resulting from Vanderbilt and Leipzig Universities collaboration. Project Summary and Press Release

3) This July 6th through July 12th researchers from Vanderbilt and Leipzig University will meet in Leipzig for the 4th annual partnership symposium and scientific workshop. Drs. Gurevich, Lybrand, Mchaourab, and Meiler from Vanderbilt University will participate in scientific presentations and meet faculty from Leipzig University. The Memorandum of Understanding between the two institutions will be renewed, and faculty will discuss the strategic objectives of the collaboration. Press Release

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Announcement: Summer School on Molecular Modeling

Monday, 10. June 2013 9:19 | Author:

Prof. Dr. Terry Lybrand, Vanderbilt University Nashville, USA

10. – 12. July 2013, Leipzig University

Prof. Dr. Terry Lybrand (Vanderbilt University)

Course description: This short course will cover basic background information and applications details for molecular mechanics calculations, including energy minimization and molecular dynamics simulations. Some basic theory will be presented, but the course will focus primarily on practical details for molecular mechanics calculations and will include numerous “hands-on” exercises, i.e., the students will get the opportunity to perform all necessary steps for typical calculations. We will discuss the capabilities and limitations of different types of calculations, the information required to perform useful calculations, and analysis techniques to allow you to extract useful information from these calculations. Most exercises will involve calculations for large biological molecules, but the methods presented are suitable for a wide range of chemistry applications.

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Announcement: Summer School on EPR Spectroscopy

Monday, 10. June 2013 9:11 | Author:

15. – 18. July 2013, Leipzig University
Prof. Dr. Hassane Mchaourab, Vanderbilt University Nashville, USA

Hassane Mchaourab (Vanderbilt University)

Course description: This is an advanced, intensive course directed at graduate students. It is intended to provide an overview of the EPR spectroscopy and its application to protein biophysics. Electron paramagnetic resonance is a magnetic resonance technique for the analysis of naturally occurring or introduced free radicals. In protein spin labeling, a stable free radical, spin label, is introduced specifically into the protein sequence via site-directed mutagenesis. The lectures will describe the technical and biochemical aspects of protein spin labeling, discuss the spectral parameters that are determined from EPR analysis of spin labeled proteins and their structural and dynamic interpretation. The lectures will end with an examination.

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The Leipzig Connection

Wednesday, 9. January 2013 12:55 | Author:

by David Salisbury | posted at

Leipzig master students Philine Hietschold and Franziska Dreher (sitting) present their protein models to Vanderbilt graduate students Greg Sliwoski and Liz Dong during their 2012 summer internship at Vanderbilt University in the Meiler laboratory. (Courtesy of Jens Meiler)

In 2007, while Jens Meiler was visiting his parents in Germany, the associate professor of chemistry was invited to give a lecture at his alma mater, the University of Leipzig.

Jens Meiler (John Russell / Vanderbilt)

“When I gave that talk on my research in structural and chemical biology, I found a tremendous amount of interest in what we are doing at Vanderbilt and learned that there is a great deal of complementary research going on in Leipzig,” Meiler said.

In fact, Meiler stirred up so much interest that two years later Annette Beck-Sickinger, professor of biochemistry and bioorganic chemistry at Leipzig, spent her sabbatical at Vanderbilt. During her visit she helped establish a number of collaborations, leading the administrations of the two universities to sign a five-year memorandum of understanding that allows and encourages academic exchanges, facilitates joint research programs, student programs and a cultural exchange program.

Over the last few years, the size of the collaboration has grown to embrace 20 faculty members at the two universities; more than 20 graduate students have spent time studying at the other campus; and groups of five undergraduates have been exchanged for the last few summers. Last October, Leipzig Professor Daniel Huster spent 10 days on campus to teach a mini-course on the use of NMR spectroscopy in biology.

“Leipzig has become one of our half-dozen strategic international partners,” said Tim McNamara, vice provost for faculty and international affairs. “It is a very productive relationship and we certainly want it to prosper.”

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DAAD RISE Program: Call 2013

Friday, 12. October 2012 17:03 | Author:

The German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, DAAD) announced a new call for its program “Research Internships in Science and Engineering” (RISE) for summer internship in 2013.

The program works in both ways. German and American Ph.D. students submit internship offers for undergraduates students for a duration of 8 to 12 weeks. German bachelor students can work as research interns at U.S. universities and U.S. undergraduates can work in labs of German universities. The DAAD provides stipends to help cover living expenses, the partner universities and research institutes provide housing assistance. The call is applicable for all fields of biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences and engineering.

Please visit for further information:

To promote the exchange of students from North America and Great Britain to Germany in the fields of natural science, engineering and life sciences To enable young German scientists to conduct research abroad
Offering Research Internship Offering Research Internship
October 1, 2012 – November 30, 2012 October 8, 2012 – November 25, 2012
Apply for Research Internship Apply for Research Internship
December 6, 2012 – Januar 31, 2013 December 3, 2012 – Januar 13, 2013

Students and researchers from Leipzig and Vanderbilt Universities with an interest in exchange activities with the other partner university are kindly asked to contact Mrs. Anett Albrecht for more information and assistance.

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My Summer in Leipzig – The Universität Leipzig/VU Collaboration

Wednesday, 5. September 2012 17:51 | Author:

by Shilpa Mokshagundam (Vanderbilt University, Class of 2014)

My internship took off very  quickly! Within the first day, my PhD supervisor Tom explained to me the basis of our project and allowed me to assist in preparing and running an agarose gel. This was quite different from any American internship, where the intern is usually required to conduct a literature review for at least 1-2 weeks.

The next week, I travelled with the AGBS to Krummenhennersdorf for a week-long seminar retreat. During the morning and afternoon, PhD students presented their current work. In the evenings, we hiked, cooked dinner and sang songs around the campfire. Tom and I officially began our project the next week and worked on inserting Delta-like-Kinase-1 (DLK1) into our vectors of interest. Tom taught me how to run PCR and perform digestion, ligation and transformation.

As I began to get acclimated to living in Germany, I started to explore the wonderful city of Leipzig. I experienced BachFest, a 10-day music festival that takes place in Leipzig city center. I also explored the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig on one of the “free admission days”. I also had the pleasure of going paintballing with the PhD students in AGBS. I was so happy to see the lab group bonding and spending time together outside of work. I think this allowed for a friendly and trusting working atmosphere and I truly admire the tight friendships within AGBS.

Over the next weeks, I worked with Tom to express our protein and began protein purification. These procedures were completely new to me but Tom was very encouraging and helped me through every step of the process! At this time, I travelled with my fellow RISE interns to the Dresden for the RISE conference. We explored the beautiful city and discussed opportunities for studying in Germany after completing our Bachelor’s degree.

After returning from the RISE conference, I began to run chitin columns with hopes of obtaining the purified protein. The last step, which was performed during my last week in Leipzig, was using SDS-PAGE to analyze the success of the protein purification method. Luckily, Tom and I found the method to be quite successful! My last week in Leipzig was bittersweetI had formed such tight relationships with my fellow RISE students, my PhD supervisor Tom and the Masters and PhD students in AGBS and it was difficult saying goodbye to everyone!

I am so grateful to Tom, the RISE program, Dr. Annette Beck-Sickinger, Dr. Jens Meiler, the entire AGBS and the Leipzig/VU collaboration for helping in this experience. I feel so lucky to have been blessed with this incredible opportunity and I hope to motivate more students to study in Leipzig!

Picture: Shilpa and a friend at the Art Museum (“Bildermuseum”) in Leipzig

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Announcement: Summer School on Receptor Theory and GPCR signalling via G proteins and arrestins

Tuesday, 28. August 2012 15:45 | Author:

Prof. Dr. Vsevolod Gurevich, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

8 – 12 October 2012, Leipzig University

Arrestins are proteins which regulate the signalling and trafficking of hundreds of different G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCR). But arrestins also interact with other classes of membrane receptors and over 20 diverse types of soluble signalling protein. Arrestins can block GPCR coupling to G proteins in two ways. But they can also modify gene expression by increasing the transcription of certain genes.Several arrestin-binding partners play a key role in the signalling pathways regulating cell proliferation, survival and apoptosis. Since multiple genetic disorders can be associated with excessive signalling by mutant G-protein-coupled receptors, arrestin is an interesting target for therapeutic intervention. Vsevolod Gurevich uses different approaches for the investigation of arrestin functions ranging from basic biochemistry and X-ray crystallography to cell culture and transgenic animals. In his lectures, he will give an overview of receptor theory, explain key methods of studying receptors and receptor-initiated cell signalling as well as explain key signalling pathways initiated by GPCRs via activation of G proteins and arrestins.

If you want to attend the summer school, please register by sending an e-mail to Anja Pohl.

Further information (pdf): Schedule of Summer School on Receptor Theory

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Announcement: Summer School on Solid-State NMR Spectroscopy in Biology

Monday, 13. August 2012 15:55 | Author:

Prof. Dr. Daniel Huster, University of Leipzig

2 -11 October 2012, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Due to the success of NMR studies on soluble molecules the original NMR spectroscopy on solid materials such as crystals, glasses, powders and polymers has long played an inferior role. However, in the last decade, solid-state NMR spectroscopy has widely been applied to complicated biological questions such as the study of aggregated and amyloidic protein states, membrane proteins, biological tissue or other molecular aggregates of large molecular mass. As there is no principle limit on the molecular mass of the investigated molecules and the fact that the resolution and sensitivity of the technique seems to constantly improve, solid-state NMR is seen to have a bright future in structural biology and biophysics, but also in medical research. In the summer school, the basic principles of solid-state NMR in comparison to solution NMR will be highlighted in a general way including practical exercises in modelling line shapes and NMR spectra on the computer. Further, current examples on the structure elucidation and dynamic characterization of amyloids and membrane proteins will be discussed.

Recommended Literature:

Baldus, M. (2002) Correlation experiments for assignment ans structure elucidation of immobilized polypeptides under magic angle spinning. Prog Nucl Magn Reson Spectrosc 41: 1-47.

Huster, D. (2005) Investigations of the structure and dynamics of membrane-associated peptides by magic angle spinning NMR. Prog Nucl Magn Reson Spectrosc 46: 79-107.

Hong, M. (2007) Structure, topology, and dynamics of membrane peptides and proteins from solid-state NMR Spectroscopy. J Phys Chem B 111: 10340-10351.

More information will be available beginning of September.

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Vanderbilt PhD students in Leipzig

Wednesday, 26. October 2011 13:48 | Author:

Stephanie and Liz are graduate students in the Meiler Laboratory at Vanderbilt University.  They both work on the computational investigation of GPCRs and their interactions with various ligands. They recently took the opportunity to do a month-long research internship at Leipzig University in conjunction with their collaborators, who perform the wet-lab experiments associated with the proteins they model. Herein, they reflect on their experiences.

Liz Dong: For 4 weeks, I worked with the lab of Dr. Torsten Schöneberg on a project involving P2Y12, a receptor involved in platelet aggregation. My part of the project was to build a model of P2Y12 using Rosetta and dock known ligands into the model to assess their binding modes. While in the lab, I had the opportunity to meet and work with the students involved in the project. Maxi Cöster, Kay Simon and Philipp Schmidt were extremely helpful in explaining the P2Y12 system to me and the assays that are used to evaluate functionality of the receptor. I even had the opportunity to work in the wet lab to assist in data collection in between running computational jobs. During my 4 weeks, I was able to build models of P2Y12 and create docking poses of the ligands we are interested in studying, which will contribute nicely to a paper we are looking to submit soon.

Stephanie DeLuca: I was in Germany for five weeks.  During the first week, I attended the summer school of the SFB 610 graduate program in Dessau, where I got to know several graduate students from both Leipzig and Halle Universities, as well as the interesting research they are doing.  One thing that surprised me is the diversity of both systems being studied and methods being used.  The following week, I joined the Beck-Sickinger lab group at their external seminar in Krummenhennersdorf.  Because everyone in the lab gave a full scientific talk, I was able to get a good idea of what kind of research Prof. Dr. Beck-Sickinger’s group performs, as well as learn how they approach biomedically relevant problems and what kind of experimental techniques they use.  I spent my last three weeks working in the Beck-Sickinger lab alongside Daniel Rathmann.  The goal of my visit was to learn about the experiments used to study the prolactin releasing peptide (PrRP) and its receptor.  In addition to the IP accumulation assay often used in this lab, I also observed how to do solid-state peptide synthesis (SSPS) and fluorescence microscopy.  We managed to successfully obtain concentration-response curves that we can then use to assist/validate the computational modeling of this system.

Because we stayed in a guesthouse near the city center, there were always many exciting activities to enjoy while we were not in the lab. In addition to shopping and visiting the Bach, Stasi, and Grassi museums, we saw great performances by the Gewandhaus Orchestra and the Thomanerchor. We also traveled to Dresden and Berlin, where we learned more about German history.  While in Berlin, we visited many sites relevant to World War II and the Cold War, and we celebrated the German Reunification in front of the Brandenburg Gate.

The collaborative research centre SFB 610 “Variation in Protein Conformation: Cellbiological and Pathological Relevance” supported the research stay of Liz and Stephanie with a short-term-stipend.

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DAAD RISE Program: Call 2012

Wednesday, 19. October 2011 9:57 | Author:

The German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, DAAD) announced a new call for its program “Research Internships in Science and Engineering” (RISE) for summer internship in 2012.

The program works in both ways. German and American Ph.D. students submit internship offers for undergraduates students for a duration of 8 to 12 weeks.  German bachelor students can work as research interns at U.S. universities and U.S. undergraduates can work in labs of German universities. The DAAD provides stipends to help cover living expenses, the partner universities and research institutes provide housing assistance. The call is applicable for all fields of biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences and engineering.

Please visit for further information:

as a Ph.D. student from the U.S.:

Application deadline: November 25, 2011

as an undergraduate from the U.S.:

Application deadline: January 31, 2012

as a German Ph.D. student:

Application deadline: November 30, 2011

as a German bachelor student:

Application deadline: January 15, 2012

Students and researchers from Leipzig and Vanderbilt Universities with an interest in exchange activities with the other partner university are kindly asked to contact Ms. Anja Landsmann for more information and assistance.

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Liz Dong Receives DAAD Short Term Research Grant

Friday, 5. August 2011 2:27 | Author:

Liz Dong of the Jens Meiler lab at Vanderbilt recently received a short term research grant to study at the Univeristy of Leipzig in Leipzig, Germany. She will spend one month this fall developing a computational method that will allow for the binding pose of a drug within a receptor to be determined. Her method will be guided by experimental data collected on drugs that bind G-protein coupled receptors, working with the lab of Torsten Schöneberg. Congrats, Liz!

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Collaborative Paper published in “Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry”

Monday, 27. June 2011 11:52 | Author:

Researchers of Leipzig and Vanderbilt Universities published a paper in the journal “Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry” showing the results of their collaborative project on carbaborane research. The paper, published in March 2011, describes new synthesis strategies of indomethacin derivatives with inorganic carbaborane clusters. Indomethacin is a very potent cyclooxygenase (COX)-1 and COX-2 inhibitor with clinical significance as anti-inflammatory drug , The carbaborane-modified drug candidates showed also COX inhibition activity, depending on the carbaborane isomer and the connection pattern. The results gave general insights into the applicability of carbaboranes as drug entities.

Synthesis and evaluation of carbaborane derivatives of indomethacin as cyclooxygenase inhibitors

Matthias Scholz(1), Anna L. Blobaum(2), Lawrence J. Marnett(2) and Evamarie Hey-Hawkins(1)

(1) Institut für Anorganische Chemie der Universität Leipzig, Johannisallee 29, 04103 Leipzig, Germany

(2) A.B. Hancock Jr. Memorial Laboratory for Cancer Research, Departments of Biochemistry, Chemistry, and Pharmacology, Vanderbilt Institute for Chemical Biology and Center in Molecular Toxicology, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37232, USA

Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry. Volume 19, Issue 10, 15 May 2011, Pages 3242-3248


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) exert their pharmacological activities by inhibiting cyclooxygenase (COX)-1 and COX-2. Previous studies have shown that esters and amides of non-selective inhibitors such as indomethacin are selective against COX-2, which is the therapeutically relevant isoform. Structure–activity analysis indicates that substituted phenyl rings are tolerated as ester components. In the present study, the introduction of inorganic ortho- and meta-carbaborane moieties was explored with the aim to create COX-2 inhibitors and more importantly to investigate the validity of using these boron clusters as drug entities. Interestingly, only the ortho-carbaborane ester was active whereas the meta isomer was not. A similar lack of inhibitory potency was observed when an adamantyl substituent or alkylene spacers at the carbaborane were introduced in the ester functionality.

Link to paper

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3rd Vanderbilt-Leipzig Cooperation Workshop

Tuesday, 7. June 2011 13:36 | Author:

The 3rd Cooperation Workshop of Leipzig and Vanderbilt Universities took place in Leipzig on May 25th until 29th, 2011. It was organized by the Top-Level Research Area 3 “Molecular and Cellular Communication” (PbF3) Six faculty from Vanderbilt University visited Leipzig, participated in a scientific symposium, and used the opportunity to get in touch close contact with researchers from Leipzig University and non-university institutions.

The guests were heartily welcomed by new university rector, Prof. Dr. Beate A. Schücking on Wednesday evening at the top of Leipzig’s old university building, now the Panorama Tower in the city center.

On Thursday, a public scientific symposium took place at the seminar building, eagerly visited by students, PhD students and faculty from around the university.

Speakers from both Leipzig and Nashville included:

Terry P. Lybrand (Vanderbilt): Molecular modeling of cyclooxygenase-­‐inhibitor complexes: Insights into the molecular basis of inhibitor selectivity and reaction mechanism

Jeffrey N. Johnston (Vanderbilt): The Development of New Reactions and Reagents for the Total Chemical Synthesis of Natural Products and Therapeutics

Jörg Rademann (Leipzig): From C-acylations with amino acid building blocks to some applications in fragment-based drug discovery

John McLean (Vanderbilt): Advances in structural mass spectrometry for integrated omics and systems biology

Martin von Bergen (Leipzig): Integrated serum proteomic and metabolomic profiling reveals association of the complement system with obesity and identifies novel markers of body fat mass changes

Heidi E. Hamm (Vanderbilt): New insights into mechanisms of receptor-mediated G protein activation

Vsevolod V. Gurevich (Vanderbilt): The two faces of arrestin molecule: structural insights into biology

Jens Meiler (Vanderbilt): Modeling G-Protein Coupled Receptors and their Interactions

On Friday the guests visited the Wolfgang Köhler Primate Research Center, guided by a member of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, who explained behavioral research with primates and dogs undertaken by the MPI researchers.

Afterwards, Vanderbilt faculty met with many different researchers from Leipzig University on an individual basis to visit labs and work groups and discuss on-going or newly proposed research initiatives. Additionally, Leipzig presented its Integrated Research and Treatment Center for AdiposityDiseases. Here multiple common research interests of faculty from both university meet and cooperation will start in the next months.

A meeting with the new vice-rector research, Prof. Dr. Matthias Schwarz, explored strategies to expand the cooperation in life sciences and biomedicine to other disciplines, notably in mathematics.

The visit was framed by a social program where other aspects of Leipzig – the city of music, the old industrial center, the coal mines and re-cultivation efforts – were presented.

The workshops shall now – after an initial stage, generous financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Top-Level Research Area 3 of Leipzig, and sources from Vanderbilt University – take place in a yearly interchange and will be accompanied by a yearly “Leipzig-Vanderbilt Summer School” on different foci starting in 2012.

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Collaborative Paper published in Journal of Biological Chemistry

Thursday, 6. January 2011 9:44 | Author:

First results of the successful collaboration between Leipzig University (Germany) and Vanderbilt University, Nashville (Tennessee, USA) have been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry by end of 2010. Researchers from the labs of Annette G. Beck-Sickinger (Leipzig University) and Vsevolod V. Gurevich (Vanderbilt University) investigated the mechanism and regulation of neuropeptide Y2 receptor internalization. For the first time, the corporate publication “Ligand-induced internalization and recycling of the human neuropeptide Y2 receptor is regulated by its carboxyl-terminal tail” reports on specific sequences located in the receptor’s C-terminus which determine arrestin-dependent/independent internalization and recycling events, thus contributes to a better understanding of the regulation of G protein-coupled receptor trafficking pathways.

Cornelia Walther, Stefanie Nagel, Luis E. Gimenez, Karin Mörl, Vsevolod V. Gurevich, and Annette G. Beck-Sickinger: Ligand-induced Internalization and Recycling of the Human Neuropeptide Y2 Receptor Is Regulated by Its Carboxyl-terminal Tail J. Biol. Chem. 2010 285: 41578-41590.

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Vanderbilt-Leipzig Collaboration Workshop November 10-14, 2010

Monday, 3. January 2011 20:43 | Author:

In November, eight professors from Leipzig University traveled to Vanderbilt for the purpose of further developing the collaboration in education and research between Vanderbilt Leipzig Universities. They were accompanied by Dr. Martin Schlegel, the Vice Rector of Research at Leipzig University and Anja Landsmann, the Leipzig coordinator of this collaboration. The workshop began on Wednesday morning with research presentations by six Vanderbilt researchers: Borden Lacy, Walter Chazin, John McLean, Jeff Johnston, Brian Bachmann, and Larry Marnett. In the afternoon the guests from Leipzig University presented their research in a scientific symposium. Opening remarks were given by  Dr. Joel Harrington, Vanderbilt Associate Provost for Global Strategy, Dr. Martin Schlegel, and by Dr. Larry Marnett, director of the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology. The eight researchers from Leipzig: Annette Beck-Sickinger, Evamarie Hey-Hawkins, Thorsten Berg, Ralf Hoffmann, Christoph Schneider, Bernd Abel, Daniel Huster, and Torsten Schöneberg then presented their research to a large audience of students, faculty, and administrators from across the Vanderbilt campus. The symposium concluded with a reception that gave the opportunity to mingle and discuss research.

The second and third days of the workshop included tours of Vanderbilt facilities such as the high-throughput screening center, the mass spectrometry research core, the ACCRE super-computing center, and the biomolecular and small molecule NMR center. The Leipzig faculty met one-on-one with Vanderbilt researchers who were interested in their particular field of research. These meetings were designed to identify potential new areas of collaboration between the two universities. A group of twenty graduate students and post-doctoral fellows also hosted the Leipzig visitors for an informal luncheon to discuss research and academic life. Finally, the Center for Structural Biology invited the Leipzig guests to their monthly gathering to provide yet another opportunity for the visitors to make close ties with Vanderbilt researchers.

Each evening, Vanderbilt research faculty and students joined the Leipzig guests for dinner at various Nashville restaurants and music venues. These smaller gatherings contributed to the tremendous success of the workshop, further allowing the groups to develop their collaborations. Overall, several new collaborations are now underway, and older collaborations have a fresh perspective and plan for the coming years. Multiple funding opportunities were discussed from both sides, and future exchanges of students and research will be proposed to these agencies. Because of the workshop, four new projects were submitted to the DAAD to bring undergraduates from Leipzig to study at Vanderbilt, while six new projects were submitted to bring Vanderbilt students to Leipzig. In May 2011, Vanderbilt researchers will visit Leipzig for another workshop in the hopes of strengthening ties formed during the Vanderbilt workshop.

The Leipzig visitors in front of Alumni Hall with Dr. Jens Meiler

Lunch at Vanderbilt Campus

At the Bluebird Café

A visit to Lynchburg

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Details from Four Vanderbilt Students about their DAAD-RISE Internships at Leipzig

Friday, 17. December 2010 19:12 | Author:

Germany is a country with a rich history and a thriving culture, a leader in scientific discoveries, and a desired destination for many, including four undergraduate students from Vanderbilt University.

Through the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), we each applied for Research Internship in Science and Engineering (RISE) internships in the winter of 2009. We were awarded scholarships to the University of Leipzig, a university with which Vanderbilt University already has an established collaboration. Over our stay of three months, we were able to develop extensive research skills, learning and working under our mentors—Ph.D. candidates at the university.  Ross Barajas worked with Stephan Theisgen in the laboratory of Dr. Daniel Huster.  His project attempted to determine the calcium free form of the Guanylate Cyclase-Activating Protein (GCAP) 2. Aaron Coonley worked with the Chair for Environmental Technology and Environmental Management on two projects which focused on the Revitalization of Urban River Spaces. Deanna Joe worked in the laboratory of Annette Beck-Sickinger, under the mentorship of Cornelia Walther. Her project focused on the membrane targeting and internalization of the Neuropeptide Y (NPY) Transmembrane Receptor, specifically on the hY2 receptor. Lastly, Dan Viox also worked in Annette’s laboratory, but he researched with Xavier Pedragosa Badia on structural information of the human Y4 receptor (hY4R), which is a G protein-coupled receptor.

RISE student Ross Barajas (left) with his mentor Stephan Theisgen

We all gained hands-on experience, learned new experimental techniques and concepts, and attended lectures and group meetings to gain a better perspective on our respective fields.

Though we worked full-time, there was always time to explore Leipzig in the evenings and Germany and other European countries on the weekends. Situated in eastern Germany, Leipzig is a beautiful city, the home of the famous composer Johann Sebastian Bach, and the location of the Monday demonstrations—the most prominent mass protest against the East German regime. At the Auerbachs Keller—a restaurant once frequented by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe—we rubbed the shoe of Faust’s statue for good luck. We enjoyed picnics at the Völkerschlachdenktmal—the tallest monument in Europe and a landmark remembering Napoleon’s Battle of the Nations. For every game that Germany played in the World Cup, we cheered with the rest of the country at bars, restaurants, and public viewing locations. We took advantage of the Deutsche Bahn—Germany’s efficient train system—arriving in Berlin in an hour, and the Black Forest, which is at the opposite end of the country, in as little as six hours. Destinations outside of Germany included Prague, Salzburg, and Paris.  We planned all of these activities with other RISE students and our German suitemates—friends we grew very close to and still stay in touch with.

The experiences we individually and collectively had were amazing. Having the opportunity to work in a research lab is a rare occurrence for graduate students and professors—let alone undergraduates. We would not have wanted to spend our summers any other way. Thank you, Professor Jens Meiler and Professor Annette Beck-Sickinger, for your help through the application process and assistance during our stay in Leizpig. The knowledge we gained this summer about German culture and our research is invaluable and will remain with us forever.

– Ross Barajas, Aaron Coonley, Deanna Joe, and Dan Viox

Photo: Swen Reichholt (Leipzig)

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Two Leipzig students at Vanderbilt

Friday, 3. December 2010 10:40 | Author:

Sabina Kanton and Henrike Indrischek (biochemistry undergraduates from Leipzig University) took the opportunity to visit Vanderbilt University for a 5 week research stay in September and October 2010 with a special tender of the DAAD RISE program. Here is their report about this experience.

Why Vanderbilt University?
Both of us wanted to gain practical experience and get an insight into the work of a research group abroad. We were just curious to get to know the atmosphere of such a prominent American university and of course were keen on improving our scientific English.

Research projects
I (Henrike Indrischek) worked in the group of Hassane Mchaourab at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biophysics whereas Sabina was part of Chuck Sander´s group at the Department of Biochemistry. Both of us worked on similar projects running gel electrophoresis under native conditions. My task was to try out Blue Native PAGE as a technique to investigate the oligomeration state of the group`s membrane proteins under native conditions. In addition to that I had the chance to get an insight into the group´s projects and various methods like EPR or HPLC. Sabina`s goal was to investigate the influence of different factors e.g. detergents, buffer composition etc. on Clear Native PAGE which completely abdicates the negative charge of proteins during electrophoresis.

Experiences – inside of Vanderbilt and outside in Nashville

In spite of the fact that as being sophomores it was our first possibility to work in a research group at all, the groups found the right combination of letting us work self-consistently and guiding us at the same timeWe coped with our first disappointments in the lab work and had to prove persistence-valuable skills not only in research.

In addition to that we got to know so many friendly people we wish to keep in touch with. We were both impressed of the natural hospitality and care the groups welcomed us with – I have never been invited to so many BBQs, birthdays and trips at a place where I originally did not know anyone. Thus we had the opportunity to explore not only facets of the music city Nashville but also the surroundings e.g. the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, the Mammoth Caves or Cheekwood. Just being in a different surrounding, speaking a different language and getting to know different cultures – besides American, Indian and Chinese – made me deviate from our usual thinking pattern and left me slightly changed.

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2nd Scientific Workshop at Vanderbilt, November 2010

Friday, 5. November 2010 9:52 | Author:

During November 10th – 14th, researchers from Leipzig University in Germany will visit Vanderbilt to deepen and expand a collaboration between the two Universities. Faculty from Leipzig University will present their research in a kick-off symposium on November 10, 1:30pm in 208 Light Hall. A wine and cheese reception will follow the presentations at 5:30pm, where the faculty will be present to discuss their research. This collaboration is supported by Vanderbilt’s International Office, the Institute for Chemical Biology, the Department of Chemistry, and the School of Arts & Sciences. This collaboration is also supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the PbF3 of Leipzig University.

On November 10th, 2010 in 208 Light Hall 1:30pm there will be a “Special Symposium: Leipzig-Vanderbilt Collaboration following the VICB seminar by Don Hilvert and a coffee break.

1:30-1:45pm – OPENING REMARKS

1:45-2:10pm – Annette Beck-Sickinger, Biochemistry Faculty

“Single residue exchange in the prolactin-releasing peptide receptor leads to a constitutively active receptor by mimicking the ligand binding”

2:10-2:35pm – Torsten Schöneberg, Biochemistry Faculty (Faculty of Medicine)

“The structural and functional landscape of the ADP receptor P2Y12”

2:35-3:00pm – Thorsten Berg, Organic Chemistry Faculty

“Protein-protein interaction inhibitors of transcription factors and kinases”

3:00-3:25pm – Christoph Schneider, Organic Chemistry Faculty

“Vinylogous Carbon-Carbon Bond Forming Processes. From Design to Synthetic Applications”

3:25-3:50pm – COFFEE BREAK (Coffee, Tea, and Cookies)

3:50-4:15pm – Evamarie Hey-Hawkins, Inorganic Chemistry Faculty

“Carbaboranes — more than just phenyl mimetics”

4:15-4:40pm – Ralf Hoffmann, Bioanalytical Faculty

“Oncocin, a novel designer peptide to treat systemic infections caused by Gram-negative pathogens”

4:40-5:05pm- Daniel Huster, Biophysics Faculty

“Solid-State NMR of Aβ Protofibrils Implies a β-Sheet Remodelling upon Maturation into Terminal Amyloid Fibrils”

5:05-5:30pm – Bernd Abel, Physical Chemistry Faculty

“Protein Aggregation Nanoscopy and Mass Spectrometric Forensic Imaging”

5:30-6:30pm – RECEPTION (Wine and Cheese)

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Report on summer internships at Vanderbilt 2010

Wednesday, 3. November 2010 11:56 | Author:

In 2010 several students from Leipzig University had the opportunity for a research stay at Vanderbilt University. Stefanie Nagel and Anette Schreiber, students of the Master’s degree program in biochemistry at Leipzig University, were two of these. Thanks to the cooperation of Leipzig University and Vanderbilt University in Nashville (Tenneessee, USA), they participated in a 10-week student exchange in summer 2010 and report here shortly their experience.

Stefanie Nagel: I performed my internship at Vanderbilt University in the workgroup of Prof. Vsevolod (Seva) Gurevich, Department of Pharmacology, a recognized expert on the field of arrestin proteins. The aim of my project was to characterize the interaction between the human neuropeptide Y 2 receptor subtype (hY2R) and non-visual arrestins (arrestin-2 and arrestin-3), using the bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) assay. Thus, I investigated the interaction of diverse hY2R mutants and arrestin-2 and -3 and compared their affinity to the hY2 wildtype receptor. After my departure from Nashville, this project was accomplished in cooperation with the workgroup of Prof. Annette Beck-Sickinger, Leipzig University, and the resulting data was recently published. I really appreciated my internship at Vanderbilt University. I have learned many new techniques concerning my work as a biochemist and the working atmosphere and mentoring were excellent. Moreover, the time at Vanderbilt immensely improved my language skills and contributed to my professional and personal development.

Stefanie Nagel with the group of Seva Gurevich (VU)

Anette Schreiber: I worked with the group of Prof. Jens Meiler, Center for Structural Biology, in which computer programs for the prediction of protein structures and interactions are developed. My project was to build a detailed model of the prolactin releasing peptide receptor, a rhodopsin-like G‑protein coupled receptor. Structure prediction for transmembrane proteins is particularly challenging, however, the ‘Meilerlab’ is one of the leading groups in the development of ROSETTA, an open-source software which is capable of handling membrane proteins. I could work independently on my project, but there were always helpful ROSETTA-experts around for troubleshooting. During my time in the Meilerlab, I learned a lot about protein structure prediction in general and ROSETTA in particular and eventually got a nice model of my receptor. It was an exciting time and a great experience which I can recommend to everybody!

Anette Schreiber with the Meiler Group at VU

The everyday way to the lab was short for both of us, since we just had to walk across campus from our apartment in the dorms to the institute, a chance to enjoy the summerly sun and warmth before starting (air-conditioned) work. Apart from working, there were a lot of social events in the labs which contributed to a very nice and relaxed atmosphere: Barbecue and pool parties, canoeing on Cumberland River or the trip to a rollercoaster-amusement park in the (in American terms!) close-by Atlanta. A special event was to experience the Independence Day on 4th of July which was celebrated as a joyful festival including impressive fireworks in downtown Nashville. There was also enough time for an exciting weekend trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – including grizzly watching!

Activities in the Smoky Mountains

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DAAD RISE Program: Call 2011

Wednesday, 27. October 2010 7:46 | Author:

The German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, DAAD) announced a new call for its program “Research Internships in Science and Engineering” (RISE) for summer internship in 2011.

The program works in both ways. German and American Ph.D. students submit internship offers for undergraduates students for a duration of 6 to 12 weeks.  German bachelor students can work as research interns at U.S. universities and U.S. undergraduates can work in labs of German universities. The DAAD provides stipends to help cover living expenses, the partner universities and research institutes provide housing assistance. The call is applicable for all fields of biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences and engineering.

Please visit for further information:

as a Ph.D. student from the U.S.:

Application deadline: November 26, 2010

as an undergraduate from the U.S.:

Application deadline: January 31, 2011

as a German Ph.D. student:

Application deadline: November 30, 2010

as a German bachelor student:

Application deadline: January 16, 2011

Students and researchers from Leipzig and Vanderbilt Universities with an interest in exchange activities with the other partner university are kindly asked to contact Ms. Anja Landsmann for more information and assistance.

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Students from Vanderbilt with DAAD RISE in Leipzig

Wednesday, 13. October 2010 11:53 | Author:

The German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, DAAD) offers since 2005 a yearly program that gives undergraduates from U.S., Canadian and U.K. universities the opportunity for a research internship during the summer holiday weeks.

In 2010 four students from Vanderbilt University used the collaborative efforts of the partnership to visit work groups in the fields of biochemistry (AG Beck-Sickinger), medicinal physics and biophysics (AG Huster), and environmental technology andmanagement (Prof. Holländer) to get a hands-on experience of the research at Leipzig University.

They stayed 8 to 12 weeks here learning new methods and techniques as well as getting in touch with life in Germany. All of them enjoyed their stay here in Leipzig and would like to encourage other students to make the same experience.

The picture above shows some of these students together with their mentors and group leader Annette Beck-Sickinger.

Photo: Swen Reichholt (Leipzig)

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Kick-off meeting in Leipzig, June 2010

Wednesday, 13. October 2010 11:51 | Author:

The Kick-off meeting of the establishment of a university partnership between Vanderbilt and Leipzig University took place in Leipzig from June 16th to 20th. During this first joint scientific workshop seven researchers from Vanderbilt University presented their research an audience of Leipzig faculty and students. Topics of the workshop were parts of research of both universities in the natural and life sciences (organic chemistry, biochemistry, biotechnology, bioinformatics, and biomedicine). Besides the workshop we organized multiple face-to-face meetings with work groups from Leipzig University and introduced the visitors to Leipzig and its research institutions.

Until now exists several cooperations of researchers from both universities, for instance in the areas of G-protein coupled receptors and of COX inhibitors. Further joint research projects are in the planning stage. Other initiatives could be discussed during the workshop. Momentarily, a few joint projects are in the application phase for calls of different funding agencies.

The two-day workshop also provided information about different potential funding sources, opportunities for students and young researchers to learn and work at the partner university. Special emphasis was given to develop ideas about an institutionalized student exchange on all levels of graduation to strenghten this part of the collaboration further.

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