Position: PostDoc/Junior Group Leader
Research focus: in silico analyses of viral RNA-RNA- and RNA-protein interactions; Evolution of RNA secondary structures
What do you love about viruses?
From a computational point of view, it is their small genomes. You can work with viral sequences on nearly every laptop and make cool science nearly everywhere without having to worry much about RAM or hard drive storage. From a more biological point of view, I love all the different molecular mechanisms and strategies viruses employ during infection. There is always something new that amazes me when I am introduced to new viral species.
Who is your favourite scientist and why?
No idea, honestly. Back when I was a teenager there might have been an answer to that question. Nowadays, I find it hard to determine a “favourite” scientist just based on their scientific career and results. But I do have a deep respect for all the people that did stuff without actually knowing what is going on. People discovered DNA back in 1868 and worked with it without knowing what it really is or does until roughly 100 years later. How amazing – and somewhat unimaginable – is that?
On what topic could you give a 30-minute presentation without any preparation?
Viruses, RNA structures, RNA structures in viruses, videogames, Pen&Paper, the struggle of being named Kevin in Germany during the 90s and 2000s (most likely, I won’t fill 30 minutes with that, though), and probably many more 🙂
What is your favourite way to spend a day off?
Sleep without being disturbed with an alarm, drinking the first coffee in bed, then some long, extended breakfast/brunch. Afterwards, it depends on the mood and weather. Relaxing in the park with people you like is always fun, going to the climbing gym, have a nice nerd-evening with either videogames and/or boardgames… Once, I also spend a whole day just in bed, doing essentially nothing. That was also great.
What are you currently learning?
Many things about RNA-protein interactions in general. And I am trying to learn the Julia language for potential cloud computing use-cases.
If you could create a new invention, what would it be?
Teleportation. Do I have to explain that…?
What is the coolest thing about your research?
This may sound a bit lurid, but the fact that a single point mutation in the non-coding region of the viral genome can lead to a stop of replication fascinates me very much.
What do people think about you that isn’t true?
That I am in love with alignments; and that I am named after the movie “Home alone”
What was your most surprising scientific finding?
Well, it wasn’t my finding specifically, but together with collaborators we found an essential functional RNA element in the 5′ UTR of Human coronavirus 229E. Destabilizing this structure by introducing a single mutation in the genome led to a dramatical decrease of viral titer.
For which project idea are you still looking for a cooperation partner?
In general, I’m happy about everyone who is willing to dive into viral RNA-protein interactions, however, I am still studying a large pile of literature in that regard.
If you were completely free to choose a scientific topic to work on, which would it be?
I don’t think I would be working on another topic. Molecular biology always fascinated me and with new technologies, such as direct RNA sequencing, there are a lot of new research questions that need attention (RNA modifications, structure landscapes of molecules, interaction dynamics, …)
If you had the option to advise a younger version of yourself, what would that be?
Believe in yourself and be bold – the rest will work out somehow.