I am a wet lab person moving towards programming, an Arabidopsis scientist going for non-model species, a real-time experimenter dusting off herbarium specimen.
Drivers are a love for knowledge, plants, and how small things together form a larger picture.
Genetic diversity trailing global change
Global change is the largest evolution experiment of all times. Witnesses that are particularly exposed to fluctuations in climate, or land use, are plants. To understand where, how, and to which end, they are reacting — adapting? — I study changes in genetic variation in five non-model species within the last ~200 years, using a combination of contemporary and historic samples. Right now I am establishing robust RAD-sequencing-type methods to obtain comparable sequence information from both sample types across all species, to process ~1000 contemporary and ~300 historic samples. This project is part of the DFG-funded German Biodiversity Exploratories, a long-term, large-scale biodiversity and ecosystem research effort that has been running since 2006.
Non-coding RNAs in evolution
Having turned from basic molecular biology to temporal-scale evolutionary perspectives, I ultimately aim at combining the two. Small molecules with big roles have always fascinated me — think the effects of non-coding regulatory factors, like small RNAs; hence also my miRNA-focused PhD work. One of the questions I am now curious about is the role of sRNAs in the context of adaptation and evolution. How do rapid birth and turnover of sRNAs, or regulation of their biogenesis and function factors, contribute to adaptation to new environmental challenges? How conserved are such adaptation mechanisms and their building blocks?
Beyond – Grammar of Life
In- and outside of the lab, I am fascinated by all aspects of language, and juggling with grammar, words and punctuation. How a purposeful combination and succession of words, commas and dots becomes more than the ‘sum of all parts’. Ultimately, biological organisms follow similar principles: Growth, development and homeostasis are largely based on differential regulation of transcription, and translation, both per se already language-references — alas, the language-parallel is not new. As I, besides biology, believe in the power of words, and the importance of communication, I am working on skills to combine both. I want to help translate what we know to a language that everybody can understand.