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The complex life of a young PI

Walk the helices of the EMBL Advanced Training Centre during an event and you’ll encounter a Who’s Who of emerging and established life science talent, no small number of whom are EMBL alumni. At a recent conference, alumnus Jan Medenbach hit upon one way to harness this on-the-spot gathering of peers and pioneers, organising an informal gathering of early-career group leaders.

Medenbach (centre) meets alumnus Antonio Giraldez (Yale School of Medicine) and Annekatrin König (University of Göttingen) at The Complex Life of mRNA. PHOTO: Mehrnoosh Rayner

Medenbach was one of 25 EMBL alumni who attended the third annual conference on The Complex Life of mRNA, held at EMBL Heidelberg in October. “There’s no comparable meeting in Europe like this,” he says. “It is exciting and cutting edge in terms of science, and very well attended especially by leaders in the field.”

Now group leader at the University of Regensburg, Medenbach is currently recruiting a predoctoral and postdoctoral fellow to join his five-strong group. This motivated him to organise an informal get-together of young group leaders over dinner at the conference. “Around 20 of us met, mostly EMBL alumni but not exclusively, and all recent leavers. Our aim was to informally share experiences and solutions to do with setting up labs, hiring people and administration – EMBL’s own administration being an excellent standard here. It was very helpful and we plan to repeat this at similar events.”

Our aim was to informally share experiences and solutions to do with setting up labs, hiring people and administration.

Medenbach’s major research focus is translational regulation using Drosophila as a model system. “Eukaryotic translation is extremely complex and plastic,” he explains. “Its control is far more important than originally anticipated, fine-tuning the levels of many cellular proteins and shaping eukarotic proteomes.” Jan is not the only one who thinks so: within two years of leaving EMBL as a postdoc in the Hentze Group, Jan has secured three prestigious grants totalling more than 2 million Euros.

“For me personally, recruiting to Regensburg has its challenges in terms of the small size and young age of the University,” says Medenbach. “However, my field of research is very exciting, and the resources available on campus are very good both in terms of expertise in the field of RNA biology, and facilities for high throughput sequencing and mass spectrometry. I certainly plan to tap into these as I grow an international lab, very much like the one I came from at EMBL.”

Tags: Alumni, events, Heidelberg, Training

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