What is your thesis topic/field of interest?
During my PhD I am trying to get some insights into early life on Earth. To be more precise, I am studying the Proterozoic microbial communities. We try to understand what, when and why conditions of life changed, changes that led in their consequences to modern Earth and life. To achieve our aims we use the technique of molecular fossils (Biomarkers) in combination with abiotic parameters.
Where have you come from to do this program?
I hold Diploma degrees (Master’s equivalent) in Biochemistry and Geology from the Christian Albrechts University in Kiel (Germany). Although, I focused on paleo-oceanography (Silicon isotope fractionation in diatoms) and cell biology (Functional analysis of SPPL2s) in my theses, my interest for early life on Earth and Astrobiology arose much earlier, specifically when I studied at the Pennsylvania State University (USA). Even though, this is a fast growing field of research, not many institutions offer an adequate PhD environment where cutting edge research, brilliant people and a pleasant working atmosphere meet. I chose RSES among other offers, because the program appeared to be flexible, but yet focused enough to combine my scientific background in one time-manageable post-graduate project.
What experience have you gained while studying at RSES?
My main focus is to master and improve the application of biomarkers in combination with other biogeochemical tools, or in other words the scientific education. Other than that I am experiencing the entire world of research: procurement of funding, (inter)national collaborations, (inter)national conferences, improving in general organization and communication skills as well as stress tests. I had also the opportunity to get involved in undergraduate teaching, a very valuable experience.
Where do you see yourself upon completion of the program?
I would like to continue working with my acquired skills on a broader context maybe even in bio- or medical sciences. I would like to do this on post-doctoral positions at other international institutes. At some stage I would enjoy focusing on improving the communication between science and the real world: advertise the innovation of recent research and raise awareness of its necessity, basically secure funding for research institutes.
What has been the highlight of the program?
The highlight of a PhD at RSES is the international and interdisciplinary character of the program: rather than only asking what the lab could provide for the project, the question is what the project needs and where it can be realised. And, last but not least, the multifaceted postgraduate community that comes with a PhD at RSES. That is a source of motivation, inspiration and balance.