Short Report by Tobias Fischer: Investigation of Ligand Binding at the Chemokine-Like Receptor 1. (Sept. – Dec. 2018)
I am a PhD student in Leipzig in the lab of Annette Beck-Sickinger. My research focuses on investigation of ligand-binding at a specic G protein-coupled receptor, the chemokine-like receptor 1. This receptor is involved in multiple in ammatory diseases and therefore is a promising drug target. While we have the possibility to investigate the pharmacology of this receptor here in Leipzig, the lab of Jens Meiler at Vanderbilt offers computational methods to improve understanding of this receptor on a molecular
level. Hence, I spent 10 weeks in Vanderbilt, where I had the possibility to learn using the software suite Rosetta, which includes a variety of algorithms for protein structure prediction and is in part developed in the Meiler lab. I learned these techniques by directly applying them to my project. Consequently, within these ten weeks at Vanderbilt, I did not only acquire skills in using Rosetta to answer questions on a molecular level, but also a deeper understanding of my project and hypotheses that I can now verify using the methods we have at our disposition in our laboratory back in Leipzig.
While learning these techniques in Nashville, I participated in the daily routines of the group of Jens Meiler. I connected with (small parts) of the american Rosetta community (i.e. the Meiler lab), I attended weekly group meetings as well as talks given by scientists from the world’s most prestigious research institutes. I learned about the American system of higher education, about the organization of institutes at universities such as Vanderbilt, and about how research is funded in the US. Of course, in addition to learning a lot on the scientic side, I also had the chance to live in an English-speaking environment. And while I already could speak and understand English before coming to Nashville, the time in the US helped me immensely in improving my language skills, so that I can now condently lead discussions or give presentations in English.
In contrast to Leipzig University, where the campus does not play an important role in my daily routine, I spent lots of time on Vanderbilt’s beautiful campus, where I participated in informal gatherings of the Center for Structural Biology, played volleyball with other PhD students or simply went to the gym in the Recreation and Wellness Center.
Whenever I was not on campus, chances were high that PhD students or postdocs from the Meiler lab showed me the way around Nashville’s vivid bars, breweries, restaurants, and the local music scene. The only thing I denitely did not get enough of was sleep – but ten weeks is a short enough time to survive without that.