Experience reports about research stays supported by the Mobility Fund

Esther Sundermann

Research stay at the Systems Biology Research Group of Prof. Bernhard Palsson at the University of California, San Diego, USA, 2017 

I had the pleasure to visit the Systems Biology Research Group of Prof. Bernhard Palsson at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) for a two-month research stay. This amazing opportunity allowed me to present my PhD project to a research group which is interested in model-predicted performance of various organisms in different environmental conditions. This allowed me to improve my project by fruitful discussions on the one hand with scientists which are experts in the field of modelling photosynthesis and on the other hand with researchers working in related fields. Furthermore, I learned more about various in silico methods, which were utilized in a wide range of applications including diatoms and their CO2 concentration mechanism. The research stay allowed me to learn more about theoretical and empirical approaches used in the Palsson group and additionally intensify an existing collaboration.

I also had the chance to explore San Diego and its wonderful surrounding. San Diego is a beautiful city with friendly and welcoming people, which offers a lot of activities. My personal highlight has been a weekend trip to the Anza-Borrego desert where I enjoy the blooming wild flowers and a magic sky at night.

I enjoyed my time in the research group of Prof. Bernhard Palsson and San Diego very much and I am very grateful for this opportunity which was enabled by the CEPLAS Mobility Fund.

Profile of Esther Sundermann

Photos provided by Esther Sundermann

Tabea Mettler-Altmann

Research stay at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, USA, 2017

I had the pleasure to visit the laboratory of Sabeeha Merchant at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in February and I am very grateful for the hospitably of the Merchant lab, particularly to Sabeeha herself, and the chances CEPLAS Mobility Fund gave me to visit UCLA. Sabeeha´s works focus on the dynamics of nitrogen, iron, copper, zinc and manganese metabolism in the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. She also published the Chlamydomonas genome in 2007 and her lab holds the largest collection of RNAseq data for this organism. Beside extending the collaboration with the Merchant lab, which so far resulted in two Plant Cell publications, the aim of my visit was to work on manuscripts and proposals beyond my collaborative activities. UCLA offered me the perfect environment to do so! We also took the chance to work on one of our current collaboration and discovered novel common interest in phosphate metabolism, which we will explore in the future. Apart from great scientific inputs, it was very fruitful to be part of another lab for a couple of weeks and see their approaches of lab organisation and management. It was educating catching-up with postdoctoral fellows there and learn about the academic system in the US and explore our common grounds of commitment to sound science in algal research. Although LA had the most rain in years, I felt very warmly welcome!

Being in California already, I took the chance to shortly visit the San Francisco area. I had the great opportunity to talk to Arthur Grossman at Carnegie Institute about my most recent projects and got very valuable feedback. Arthur is another luminary in algal research. I was also delighted to meet Jeffrey Moseley, who introduced me to the newest activities of TerraVia, formerly Solazyme, a company located in South San Francisco. Diverged from the aim of producing biofuels, the company now focuses on the production of sophisticated raw materials from algae for industry, such as the high-quality oil “Thrive” for food industry.

Learn more about CEPLAS Plant Metabolism and Metabolomics Facility

Photos provided by Tabea Mettler-Altmann

Kumari Billakurthi

Research stay in the laboratory of Prof. Tammy Sage, Canada, 2016

I have been working on a project, which is aimed to identify Kranz anatomy mutants using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. We selected several mutants but couldn’t find the easiest way to characterize them here in Düsseldorf since our group is not an expertise in plant anatomy.  So I requested my mentor Prof. Peter Westhoff that I would like to work with our collaborative group Prof. Tammy Sage at University of Toronto to get an anatomical overview of the selected mutants, as they have good working skills in plant anatomy and great microscope facilities. Prof. P. Westhoff was happy about this and suggested to apply for CEPLAS mobility funding and I was lucky that application got approved.
I worked with Prof. T. Sage group for 3 months, from Oct-2016 to Dec-2016; colleagues are so friendly, kind to share their working skills and to help me out. It was a great experience, so happy that I have developed new working skills and was able to complete my project task within the limited time frame. While I am there, got opportunity to give a talk in Canadian Society of Plant Biology meeting (CSPB) and also attended R- programming classes, which is actually not part of my visit but it was an intensive course and of course in English so didn’t want to miss the chance.

I personally liked Toronto a lot because it is more internationalized, English speaking country so it was very easy to manage things as a short-term visitor and of course wonderful natural sight seeing places to spend your weekends. I am thankful to CEPLAS for supporting my stay and strongly recommend to apply for mobility fund if someone has interest to visit another lab in abroad and if your interest is Canada my suggestion is not to visit in winter.

Photos provided by Kumari Billakurthi

Profile of Kumari Billakurthi

Henning Frerigmann

Research stay at Prof. Dr. Kazuki Saito at RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science, Yokohama, Japan, 2015 

My CEPLAS mentor Dr. Peter Welters (Phytowelt GreenTechnologies GmbH) recommended me a research stay abroad for further personal development and additionally to facilitate my career in academia as well as in industry. I discussed therefore the opportunity for such a stay with relevant groups in my field and developed a working programme, which will provide new insights in my project. 

The Metabolomics research group of Prof. Kazuki Saito at the RIKEN institute (Yokohama, Japan) was willing to share their great facilities and offered cooperation with excellent researchers. Thus I applied last year for the CEPLAS mobility fund to perform a 3-month research stay in Japan. 

After some bureaucratic problems (it is not so easy to send transgenic seeds officially to Japan!) I joined the group in February 2015. The group has developed different pipelines for mass-spectrometry based measurements. Thus I could work with different people together and learned how they use these methods. During the seminars I became acquainted with their (sometimes) different approaches to solve scientific problems and could start new projects with cooperation partners. 

Beside the scientific development it was a great experience to live in Tokyo not as a tourist but as a “normal” citizen and to go every day with a really crowded train back from work. If you have the opportunity for such a stay I can definitely recommend applying for the CEPLAS mobility fund.

Profile of Henning Frerigmann

Heinrich Heine University
University of Cologne
Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research
Forschungszentrum Jülich