J 0307, von 1988 bis 1990
Ort des Schrödinger-Stipendiums
Forschungsstätte des Schrödinger-Stipendiums
Collège de France
In Oct. 1988, I left the Institute for General and Experimenatl Pathology at the Medical Faculty of the University of Innsrbruck (Director: Prof. Geog Wick) to join the Collège de France at Nogent-sur-Marne in the suburbs of Paris. The Institute was directed by Prof. Nicole Le Douarin and my direct supervisor was Dr. Charles Auffray. At that time, Europe was still an utopia (it still is), and it was even necessary to have a visum from the French consulate to travel to France. The paperwork to get a work permit in France was terrible, much worse than it is today: some progress has been made. Under the guidance of my mentors, Georg Wick and Charles Auffray, I continued to work on the immune system of the chicken, performing part of the characterization of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) of the chicken. In total, I spent 24 months in Paris, and went later on to Madrid (to the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas) to continue my work on immune tolerance, this time in the mouse system. After 42 months in Madrid, I then went back to France, once I had got a stable position at Institut National pour la Santé et la Recherche Médicale (the equivalent of the Medical Resarch Council). The Schroedinger fellowshop has allowed me to start an international carrier at a time at which it was extremely difficult to find postdoctoral fellowships and to move from one Euorpean country to another one.
Today, I live in the Paris area, and I am heading a relatively large multinational research team (30 people) working at Institut Gustave Roussy, one of Europe's largest cancer-specific hospitals. There we are working on the fundamental mechanisms of cell death, concentrating on the pathogenic dyssregulation of cell death in cancer and in AIDS. I have become one of the most cited scientists in the field of cell death research world wide (www.caspases.org) as well as in immunology (http://isihighlycited.com). In spite of the fact that I have become a successful "French" scientist, I will not forget my humble origins as a young unexperienced post-doc, who could discover the world thanks to an Erwin Schroedinger fellowship.
My "credo" is that the only valuable reason for doing science is a combination of intense curiosity together with a profound love for the every day life in the laboratory. If you like the smell of mice, the noise of refrigerators, the color of medium, the shape of cells in the microscope, the flavor of unslept nights working at the bench and the excitement of performing literature searches, then you might become a scientist. For becoming a good scientist you must unite basic qualities (intelligence and diligence) and basic defects (insatisfaction, insecurity and impatience) in the soul of an anarchist rebel who still wants to change the world and to conquer knowledge from terra incognita. And, you need some social skills, because science allways is a collective adventure.