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2023 Lindau Meeting: “An extraordinary experience”

For each Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, the FNR runs a Call for promising young researchers with a connection to Luxembourg to attend. Dr Pauline Mencke was one of three young researchers selected for the 2023 Lindau Meeting, dedicated to physiology & medicine. We speak to Pauline about the experience of attending the event and meeting Nobel laureates, including one whose awarded work she applied in her research.

Find out more about FNR calls for Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

You had the opportunity to hear from and/or meet Nobel Prize winners and hundreds of other young researchers, can you describe the overall experience?

“It was an extraordinary experience and an honour to meet the Nobel Prize winners. Also, it was a unique opportunity to connect and exchange with other young scientists. I met many PhD students and Postdocs from all over the world and learned a lot about their research and career paths.

“During many discussions, we explored potential lab visits, discussed next career steps, and reflected about life as a scientist. Overall, it was a great event to explore career options and to learn from the Nobel Prize winners and other very talented scientists about different career paths and how to pursue a successful scientific career both in academia and as a clinician scientist.”

You had the opportunity to hear from and/or meet Nobel Prize winners and hundreds of other young researchers, can you describe the overall experience?

“The Nobel Prize winners were very eager to exchange with as many young scientists as possible and were always surrounded by a huge crowd of people during every coffee break, so there were many opportunities to ask questions, also during open exchanges, which I considered to be very useful, because very often, other young scientists had the exact same question than me, for example on how to best stratify a career as a clinician scientist.”

Pauline with Nobel Laureate Emmanuelle Charpentier, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020 for her discovery of CRISPR Cas9 technology.

“I wanted to thank her for her amazing discovery as I had also used CRISPR Cas9 technology for my research.”

What were your highlights of the scientific programme?

“My highlights were the open exchanges with different Nobel Prize winners to obtain career advice and the panel discussions.”

Were there any current topics that came up from several Laureates or researchers in attendance?

“Current topics like climate change and artificial intelligence in medicine were discussed during panel discussions. Also, the topic of women in science was discussed several times.”

Did you find any inspiration at the meeting, for your work or outside?

“During the meeting, I was constantly stimulated to think about future career options due to all the different career backgrounds that I had heard of.

As it has always been a dream of me to become a clinician scientist, the meeting encouraged me a lot to pursue this career path due to the very many other MD-PhDs and MDs that I met. As I am still in med school and had just finished my PhD when attending the meeting, I did not have concrete scientific post-PhD career plans yet, but the meeting encouraged me to contact different labs for Postdoc positions to pursue a career as clinician scientist.
Dr Pauline Mencke

Your research, for example, looks at both cancer and neurodegeneration, can you tell us more?

“This May, I successfully finished my AFR-funded PhD at the LCSB in Luxembourg. In parallel, I started medical school at University Saarland to pursue a career as a clinician scientist. My research focuses on the role of a protein (DJ-1) that is known to be involved in both Parkinson´s disease and glioblastoma.

In Parkinson´s disease, the loss of DJ-1 protein leads to neuronal cell death, whereas in glioblastoma, upregulation of DJ-1 sustains uncontrolled cell proliferation of astrocytes. I found that cellular characteristics like growth, immune response and metabolic behaviour are directly correlated with different protein levels of DJ-1 in Parkinson´s disease astrocytes and glioblastoma cells. My research mechanistically connects Parkinson´s disease and glioblastoma via a shared pathological pathway that is inversely regulated due to invers DJ-1 levels. Overall, my study bridges between disciplines and diseases, between neurodegeneration and cancer research, thinking beyond to identify common disease mechanisms to enable targeted therapies for both diseases. I hope that my research will stimulate other researchers to think broader and expand their way of thinking across diseases and focus on the identification of shared molecular mechanisms and therapies.
Dr Pauline Mencke

Photos by Pauline Mencke