Guests from East and West

2018. május 31.

Presence of visiting scientists in a respected institute is not a new phenomenon either in Hungary or for a Hungarian. Just think of Albert Szent-Györgyi, who spent long years in foreign laboratories in the first part of the 20th century or e.g. professor Rodrigo Cunha, an internationally respected scientist on the purinergic field who worked in the team of professor Vizi in the 1990s. Their careers, although in different extent so far, is good to demonstrate the benefits of active participation in international conferences where almost anyone can meet and speak with outstanding scientists and in some cases, e.g. can get an invitation to their laboratory, too. Of course, not everybody will win a Nobel Prize, but a couple of years in a good lab definitely help one’s career and new circumstances, impressions, and a vivid scientific community always stimulate a researcher.

Recently we have several PhD students and postdoctoral researchers joined to our institute. Four of them are from Spain, one from Italy, one from “China via Lepizig”, and one from Japan.

Let’s start from West with Spain!

Laura Rovira Esteban arrived the earliest, 3 years ago.

- Please, introduce yourself briefly, and let us know a bit about your education background!

- I got both my degree in Biochemistry and my PhD in Basic and Applied Neurosciences in the University of Valencia (Spain). There, I learned tracing and immunohistochemical techniques as well as confocal and transmission electron microscopy. This allowed me to study neural circuits from the anatomical point of view. However, I was also interested in gaining a better understanding of the function of these circuits by studying them from the physiological point of view also. For that, I got a great opportunity to join the IEM in the Laboratory of Network Neurophysiology, led by Dr. Norbert Hájos, where I have been working for more than 3 years as a postdoctoral research fellow.

- What is your main goal in science and how do you want to achieve it?

- My main goal in science is understanding how the brain works from both anatomical and physiological point of view. Of course, that is too ambitious, so I would be happy if I just could add to the already existing huge body of knowledge new pieces of information that can help us gain deeper insight on how certain brain structures, like the amygdala, operate. What different neuronal populations are there in that given brain structure? What kind of inputs they receive and how do they communicate among them to work not as independent units but as an organized neuronal network? What is the functional output of their activation? These are the questions in which I am mainly interested in.

- How can this stay at our institute help you to reach your purposes?

- For me, coming to the IEM has been a great experience. In this Institute I’ve found the opportunity to learn different methodologies which allow to address the previous questions, and which were lacking in my previous lab. There are several activities organized by the Institute which aim to improve the abilities of young scientists to share their science and think critically about it, as well as to network among the different groups to share findings, experiences and even establish new collaborations. In particular in Norbert Hájos group I have found a very friendly and comfortable working environment, in which I could learn and develop some new technical skills and grow as a researcher, get to know very interesting people in the IEM and make very good friends who have supported me in this period of my career and my life."

Let’s see how Cecilia Pardo – Bellver, also from Norbert Hájos group, introduces herself.

- I am a PhD graduate in Neuroscience from València, Spain. This city is near the Mediterranean Sea where I obtained both my Biology degree and my PhD. There my research was focused on understanding how the olfactory-vomeronasal interplay takes place, from an anatomical and physiological perspective.

- Please, what is your main goal in science, what do you want to achieve and how can you get there?

- My research interest is directed towards understanding how different brain regions work together as a network for the integration of different kinds of information, thus allowing the generation of a wide variety of behavioural responses.

- Are you satisfied with your choice, I mean, to come to our institute?

- After I finished the PhD, I wanted to continue my research career outside of Spain as a way to challenge myself and gain knowledge not only about new techniques, but also about different means of work. The institute provides all of this. It is a centre of Excellence in Neuroscience research, with available traditional methodologies and novel techniques, and excellent researchers.

- What do you think as the greatest advantage of your team at our institute?

- The working environment favours the development of research. Here there are several colleagues with whom I can discuss my progress, the tools to make ideas possible and the possibility to establish collaborations.

- What is the main difference in your opinion, of course, between your previous lab and the IEM HAS?

- The main difference concerns the working environment. My previous lab was a small group of people, thus working with a larger amount of people allows addressing a problem with different points of view.

- What would you like to finish by the time you have to move on?

- I would like to gain more knowledge about the different methodologies used in the institute. Also, meet new researchers as a starting point to establish future research collaborations.

Sergio Martínez Bellver arrived only this year.

- I studied a Biology degree in the University of Valencia from 2005 to 2010. During those years I developed the interest about the brain structure and function, which made me follow up my education with a Master’s Degree in Basics and Applied Neuroscience (University of Valencia, 2010 to 2011). During my Master’s Degree, I joined the group of Dr. Ana Cervera-Ferri and Dr. Vicent Teruel-Martí, the only laboratory performing electrophysiology in Valencia at the time. I continue my doctorate studies in that laboratory, achieving my PhD in the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Valencia at July of 2017. My PhD focused on the interaction between the neuronal activity of the Nucleus Incertus and the hippocampal theta activity in the anesthetized rat. I joined Dr. Hangya Balazs laboratory on February 2018 as a Postdoctoral researcher.

- Let us know what is your main goal in science, and what do you think, how can you get there?

- My main goal in science is to understand how brain networks integrate diverse kinds of information to generate different behavioral responses. In this way, I think that the scientific background of my current lab will help me in improving my knowledge and methodological skills.

- And how are you satisfied with your choice, our institute?

- I’m really satisfied with coming to the institute. It’s a great environment to work and to develop new ideas. In addition, is located in a really beautiful city, which helps a lot.

- What do you think as the greatest advantage of your given team at our institute?

- In my opinion, the major advantage of Hangya’s team is that we share a way of thinking that will allow me to rapidly set up those ideas. Each of my co-workers has a different strength that properly combines in the appropriate working environment.

- What is the main difference between your previous lab and the IEM HAS?

- The main difference is how easy and fast, it is to establish collaborations which would facilitate the development of new scientific ideas.

- What would you like to achieve by the time you have to move on?

- On the one hand I want to learn. During my time in the institute I want to increase my knowledge in order to be able to properly set up my future research line. On the other hand, I will be happy if my current skills are useful and help the lab to achieve new scientific goals.

Paula Mut-Arbona is a Spanish biology and neuroscience student. She is going to start as PhD student from this September.

- During my Bachelor, I studied in the University of Valencia and the University of Sheffield (England), due to my Erasmus Fellowship. I worked with Carlos-Lopez in the evolution of cerebral cortex for my final bachelor project in the University of Valencia. After finishing the master studies in Neuroscience in the Institute of Neurosciences CSIC-UMH Alicante (Spain) and the realization of the master final project in epigenetics and, mainly, intellectual disabilities in the Angel Barco’s group, I joined the Professor Sperlágh Beáta group in the IEM-HAS, Budapest.

- What is your goal by the time you have to leave?

- I would like to finish my PhD thesis and become a great researcher before parting. PhD studies are a natural step for me, I am a curious person, and I love learning any time, from every experience.

- Please, be a bit more specific!

- Besides improving my personal knowledge and becoming a good scientist, I also want to help in the improvement of people’s life. Being able to teach and divulgate scientific information are also important to me, as I feel really optimistic about the idea of making the scientific work more accessible to the society and therefore promote the interest of our advances in new insights and development of new drugs to help patients. For that, I truly believe that my team can help to achieve my ambitions, my dreams and the development of my expertise.

Stefano Calovi arrived from Italy, which is a pretty closer to Budapest than Spain. He grew up in Mezzolombardo, in Trentino, located in an Alpine region of his country, composed by small, sparsely located villages among high mountains. He got his bachelor degree at the University of Trento.

- Where did you work on your master thesis?

- I moved to Trieste and I had the opportunity to complete my master thesis in the research environment of the SISSA of Trieste. I worked in the laboratory of neuropharmacology lead by Andrea Nistri, and eventually I become more and more interested in the purinergic signaling field and finally I arrived at the laboratory of Professor Beata Sperlagh where now I am a 2nd year PhD student at the Szentágothai János School odf PhD Studies.

- What is your main research interest now?

- I am deeply fascinated by the potential of the homeostatic regulation on the brain function and eventually our way of thinking. I would like to keep on studying the behavior of glial cells in different conditions and understand their impact on features that have been considered purely neuronal-dependent so far. Studying ATP signaling is definitively one of the most promising strategy to dissect neuron-glia communication.

- What do you think about the life in the institute and your life at us, in general?

- I am totally satisfied with the institute from an “intellectual” point of view, so to say. In this environment we are immersed in leading scientists and pioneers of neuroscience. The meetings and the conferences organized by the institute are of really high quality at scientific and intellectual level. On the other side, quality of life is composed by diverse factors, and generally I feel a bit alone in the institute. Luckily, the intellectual part can compensate it, so in conclusion I remain satisfied.

- What is the benefit of your stay here?

- I reckon the personal communication with each other should be the main advantage here, however, the effectiveness of it and the way of technological transfer should be improved.

Huang Lumei graduated from Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine with a research interest of purinergic signalling and acupuncture analgesia. However, she arrived at the institute from Germany!

- How could you join the lab of Prof Illes in Leipzig?

- I obtained a scholarship of China Scholar Council (CSC) to pursue further studies as a joint master student in the Rudolf Boehm Institute for Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Leipzig. From November 2015 to September 2017 I could work by the supervision of Prof. Peter Illes. During these almost two years, I investigated the interaction between ASIC3 and P2X3 receptors with the patch clamp technique, and ultimately found a new type of cognate receptors responding to both protons and ATP. The paper has been published in Nature Communications this April, and I am an equally contributing first author in it.

- What is your special interest?

- I am interested in the contribution of P2X7R to pathophysiological cascade of brain disorders, especially schizophrenia. The great interest motivated me to apply for the PhD position under the supervision of Prof. Sperlagh in order to make successful efforts in the field of research associated with P2X7R receptors.

- How do you feel here and what do you regard as the main differences between the two European laboratories?

- Until now I feel very good with the institute, and the people here also are very nice, friendly and helpful. But could I add more feelings in the future? Because I could not compare the labs here and the previous one without a very deep experience!

And last but not least, a very short introduction of our guest from the Far-East.

Eriko Kuramoto got her PhD in 2009 and works as assistant professor at Kagoshima University. At our institute she has been working in the team of professor Acsady since April 2018.

- What made it possible for you to come here?

- I got a Kagoshima University’s grant for study abroad one year, this let me stay and work here until March 2019.

- What is your main research topic and how are you satisfied with the possibilities found here?

- I am interested in the function of the thalamocortical reciprocal circuit. My final goal is to reveal that the thalamocortical top circuit is related to consciousness. I am very happy to join the professor Acsady’s lab. Every day I am enjoying the research work and also sightseeing of Hungary.

- What do you think as the greatest advantage of your team at our institute?

- I think that the greatest advantage of professor Acsady’ lab is a very active bidirectional discussion. Every member gives me useful advices and we have fruitful discussions. I think it is important to improve the quality of research work.

- And what is the main difference between your lab in Japan and the IEM HAS?

- There we have only 5 lab members including the head of the lab and the only one PhD course student. Furthermore, everyone has different research themes. So, it makes difficult to understand and discuss our research topics with each other.

- What is your goal to achieve by the time you have to move on?

- It would be very nice to get enough results for a paper!

Acknowledgement

Thank you Lilla Otrokocsi for reviewing and correcting the text.