BMLS Josef Buchman Awards Ceremony 2019
June 2019. On 5 June 2019, BMLS celebrated the achievements of its young scientists with the presentation of the BMLS Josef Buchman Awards.
BMLS Director Prof. Enrico Schleiff welcomed the guests and in particular the Buchmann family, who are the great benefactors of the Institute, and Prof. Jürgen Bereiter-Hahn, who played a crucial role in the founding of the Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences.
Enrico Schleiff emphasized the importance of the work of the young researchers for the success of BMLS. The Institute invests much into the present generation of highly motivated young researchers. He thanked the junior group leaders of the Institute for helping with the selection of the awardees and the postdoc and PhD student representatives Anna D’Errico, Till Moreth, Markus Seiler and Marcel Walther for their activities and support throughout the year, including the organization of the BMLS Students Symposium and the BMLS Alumni Day. BMLS also aims to inspire the next generation of young talents to take an interest in science by introducing high school students and kindergarten children to the fun of experimental work.
After a short outline of the research conducted by the BMLS research groups, the Director proudly mentions some highlights showing the success of BMLS scientists in 2018: Ivan Dikic, Stefan Knapp and Ernst Stelzer were listed amongst the 6000 most cited scientists worldwide; Maike Windbergs received the Research Award for Outstanding Achievements in the Pharmaceutical Sciences for her work in the field of design and preclinical testing of novel medicines; Ivan Dikic was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and Helge Bode won one of the prestigious Advanced Grant from the European Research Council.
Nikita Balyshev from the Kudryashev group, who received a Buchmann PhD Scholarship the year before, reported on his PhD project. Thanks to recent developments in electron microscopy it has become possible to study the structure of membrane proteins at high resolution directly in situ within membranes, which is critical for maintaining their conformations and functionality. The Kudryashev group uses subtomogram averaging from cryo electron tomograms for such studies. This in situ structural biology approach still requires developments in hardware and software and is very data intensive. As an IT specialist. Nikita Balyshev is optimizing data processing pipelines for these cryo electron tomography data.
The BMLS Buchmann PhD Scholarships 2019 were won by Tobias Kielholz from the Windbergs group, Lena Kilian from the Knapp group, Guiqun Wang from the Kudryashev group and You Zhou from the Zarnack group.
The BMLS Best Master Thesis Award went this year to Martin Schneider from the Gottschalk group. Martin Schneider explained in his presentation how he used optogenetic methods for neurophysiological studies in the worm C. elegans. His worms expressed a special engineered type of botulinum neurotoxin B which can be activated with blue light. This represents a first-in-class optogenetic tool for persistent light-triggered synaptic inhibition. He carried out his research in collaboration with scientists in the US.
Twenty-nine PhD students from nine BMLS groups successfully defended their thesis in 2018. They received a BMLS certificate and many good wishes for their future careers. The nine PhD supervisors were also honored for their dedication. However, there was also very sad news. Enrico Schleiff had to report that one of the PhD students who defended his thesis last year, Dr Hendrik Wolff from the Bode group, died completely unexpectedly in September. The group, together with his family, established the "Hendrik Wolff Preis für massenspektrometrische Methoden in der Mikrobiologie". A minute’s silence was observed in memory of him.
The prize for the BMLS Best PhD Thesis 2018 is presented by Dr. hc. J. Buchmann to Frederic Strobl from the Stelzer group. In his presentation, Frederic Strobl described how he established three new model insects for morphogenesis research: the Mediterranean fruit fly, the red flour beetle and the two-spotted field cricket. He also developed a non-invasive long-time fluorescence live imaging protocol for light sheet microscopy. By using a new mounting technique, he was able to observe embryogenesis for up to four days along multiple directions, documenting all major embryogenic events continuously in the same specimen. The long-term observations allowed him to find correlations between morphogenetic processes that happen many hours apart, incl. transiently formed structures.
The last award of the day, the BMLS Directors Pick 2019, goes to research group leader Christian Pohl. Enrico Schleiff thanked him warmly for his contribution to the development of a new BMLS concept and his outstanding commitment for the community of the BMLS.