Two LIH researchers on scientific leave share their experience

2018 - 02 - 21

Dr Tatiana Michel and Dr Danielle Perez Bercoff, both principal investigators at LIH’s Department of Infection and Immunity, had the opportunity during 2016 and 2017 to benefit from a scientific leave - a mobility period abroad to conduct research projects and acquire new expertise.

This initiative was supported by LIH and the INTER mobility programme of the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) that promotes the exchange between research institutions in Luxembourg and leading research groups abroad.

The two researchers readily communicated their impressions about their unique professional and personal experience in a short interview.

Dr Tatiana Michel 

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Research group at LIH: Department of Infection and Immunity - Innate Cellular Immunity and Chronic Inflammation

Host institution: Department of Molecular Medicine, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California, US

Laboratory Head: Dr Bruno Conti

Dates: 08/2016 - 07/2017

What was the aim of your visit?

TM: ‘I work on the immune response in chronic inflammation, mainly in the context of asthma. With my visit at “The Scripps Research Institute” I aimed to extend my knowledge to the field of neuroimmunology. I got insights into methods that were completely new to me to explore the neuroimmune system by performing brain dissection in mouse models of neurodegenerative diseases and the analysis of neurons.

I was also keen about working in a different research environment and system. At the institute I met very open people coming from all over the world. This experience was truly enriching.’

What were the major outcomes?

TM: ‘My research work in California led to the co-authorship of an article published in April 2017 in the “Journal of Neuroinflammation”. Another manuscript is currently in preparation. The visit allowed me to establish a solid collaboration with the host laboratory that I want to maintain. The technical skills and conceptual knowledge I acquired will help me to develop my research in a new direction.’

What did you like most about your stay?

TM: ‘I liked the structure of the research location a lot. In La Jolla, laboratories are located in close proximity to start-ups, which facilitates technology transfer and application-targeted research. This created a vibrant environment favouring the interaction between people and boosts scientific progress and innovation.

I took the sabbatical at the same time as my husband, working at the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER), who joined the University of California San Diego for one year. Together with our children we also enjoyed a lot being close to the seaside and having excellent weather almost all the time. I think Californian people always get up with a smile on their face, and so did we.’

Dr Danielle Perez Bercoff 

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Research group at LIH: Department of Infection and Immunity - Cellular Immunity and Chronic Inflammation

Host institution: Department of Virology, Pasteur Institute, Paris, France Laboratory

Head: Prof Simon Wain-Hobson

Dates: 02/2016 - 07/2016 and 01/2017 - 06/2017

What was the aim of your visit?

DPB: ‘I have been working for many years on HIV and in particular on viral assembly and protein trafficking. More recently, I have been investigating the molecular mechanisms leading from inflammation to cancer development in chronic viral infections, with a focus on interferon-induced APOBEC proteins, a family of DNA cytidine deaminases.

My visit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris allowed me to deeply investigate the function of those proteins and to get insights into their role in other contexts of chronic inflammation. I am now progressively moving away from the field of virology to specialise in cell and molecular biology and investigate signalling pathways.

What were the major outcomes?

DPB: ‘I have a manuscript in preparation about the work conducted in the laboratory in Paris. A fruitful collaboration is now established and I look forward to continue interacting with the team. Most importantly, the sabbatical gave me inspiration for the development of new research topics here at LIH.’

What did you like most about your stay?

DPB: ‘I was able to do a lot of bench work. Meetings and administrative tasks were rare, so I could fully concentrate on science. I enjoined being part of a dynamic team working on different projects that all converge to one thematic.

I am still fascinated and inspired by the innovative mind-set of Prof Hobson whom I got to know when I invited him to give a seminar in the frame of LIH’s Lecture Series in Infection and Immunity back in 2015.’