Spotlight on Young Researchers: Jo Hoeser

 

Ever since he was a child, Jo Hoeser wanted to understand the function of complex systems. He found himself taking apart and trying to fix broken electronic devices. Then fascination for chemistry came into the mix. Fast forward some years and the Luxembourg national completed his AFR PhD in biochemistry at the Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg – and wants to return to the Grand Duchy to continue his career in research.

“During high school I learned that all living organisms must use a vast set of chemical reactions to sustain life and to cope with external influences. This motivated me to focus my studies on biochemistry”, says Jo Hoeser, adding that his childhood passion for electronics never faded, and that he for example enjoys building 3D printers for a hobby.

Being a researcher is a perfect fit

The first step towards achieving progress is to identify and understand any existing problems. Once this is done, the insight gained can be used to solve the problems:

“Being a researcher is at the heart of this paradigm, since methodical analysis, evaluation and expertise, as well as creativity, development and perseverance, are needed on a daily basis. All these are factors that I always loved to combine and to apply, which makes being a researcher the perfect choice,” Jo says.

Working with a promising target for new antibiotics

For his AFR PhD, Jo investigated the last enzyme of the bacterial respiratory chain – a possible target for a new category of antibiotics. Many bacteria need this enzyme (called cytochrome bd ubiquinol oxidase) in order to breathe. When this enzyme is genetically removed or inhibited, several pathogens – such as tuberculosis and salmonella – become non-infectious.

Jo explains how his PhD work fed into the project:

“The aim of my work was to produce and to characterize the cytochrome bd oxidase enzyme from different organisms. Therefore the well-known organism E. coli was genetically modified in order to produce large amounts of this enzyme.

“After overproduction, the oxidase was extracted from the bacterial membranes and purified using several chromatographic steps. Afterwards, the enzyme was used for characterization of its chemical, structural and functional properties.

“The results were then evaluated, the system adjusted accordingly and the process repeated. One iteration from start to end took me from two to four weeks to complete, which made the days very rich in diversity.”

Branching out: Heating elements and bumblebees

During his PhD, Jo got a few chances to put his electronics skills to use: His supervisor gave him the opportunity to modify a fluorescence spectrometer in their group, and Jo was able to build in a heating element which allowed the spectrometer to measure fluorescence that depends on temperature – a big help in the purification process of proteins, but not easily done as Jo explains:

“This was very challenging, as I had to develop hardware as well as software from scratch by applying the knowledge on electronics and programming which I gathered over the years.”

Jo’s 3D printer knowledge recently also led to him working on a project about: bumblebees! A group at the Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg, where Jo did his PhD, are planning to examine the behaviour of bumblebees. In order to do this, they need artificial flowers that can dispense exact amounts of nectar:

“I was asked to redevelop the casing of these robotic flower systems, as in the original publication household items were used. In this case I was required to use my expertise in 3D design to sketch the model and currently I am in the process of producing these casings using my self-built 3D printer.

“I really enjoyed this complementation of biochemistry with electronics and techniques like 3D printing. This allowed me to combine work with my longstanding hobbies and to gain a different way of looking at all of these domains.”

“Since the beginning of my studies, I always planned on returning to Luxembourg”

Jo completed his AFR PhD project in August 2016. He currently remains at Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg where he has a Postdoc position, but the Luxembourger always planned on returning to Luxembourg:

“At the moment I am standing at the end of my time in Freiburg and I am preparing my return to Luxembourg. Therefore, I will probably end my research on cytochrome bd oxidases permanently and switch to something new. As of now, it is still unclear which topics my future research will cover, but I am currently looking for new challenges.”

Jo is impressed with how much the biochemistry and biomedicine sector in Luxembourg has grown since he left the Grand Duchy for his studies, and hopes to be able to contribute to its further development:

“Nowadays, nearly every week there are articles in the local newspapers reporting about the latest progressions in establishing a solid base for researchers of all disciplines. In my opinion, over the last years a lot has been done to ensure a healthy environment for researchers, but the entire sector is still under development. I always followed this evolution and I would really like to contribute in this undertaking after returning to Luxembourg.”

“I think the goal of every researcher should be to eagerly contribute to development and progress to leave his footprints in the scientific landscape. To achieve this, I specifically like the work in smaller groups, where cooperation is important. If you know the abilities of your group members well, tasks can be effectively spread and everyone contributes to a well working and productive system. Therefore, I aspire to become the leader of a small workgroup at some point in my career.”

Published 04 May 2017

Jo Hoeser

RELATED PROGRAMMES

About Spotlight on Young Researchers

Spotlight on Young Researchers is an FNR initiative to highlight early career researchers across the world who have a connection to Luxembourg. This article is the 9th in a series of around 20 articles, which will be published on a weekly basis. You can see more articles below as and when they are published.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Cyrille Thinnes

In 2015, Cyrille Thinnes was featured in our campaign ‘Spotlight on Young Researchers’, which highlighted early-career researchers with a connection to Luxembourg. At the time, Cyrille was at the University of Oxford doing a DPhil (PhD) in chemical biology. One year on, we caught up with Cyrille!

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Lisa Hefele

When Lisa Hefele was a child, she wanted to study archaeology because she thought her days would look like an Indiana Jones movie. The realisation that this would not be the case, combined with an inquisitive nature and growing passion for biology, led Lisa to pursue the path of a biology and public health researcher. Now in the first year of her PhD at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), Lisa is working on an international project that has taken her all the way to Laos for her field work on low immunologic responses to vaccines.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Thomas Elliot

When Thomas Elliot (Tom) cycled from Indonesia to London, he witnessed many people living in hardship. Motivated to research how consumption affects social and environmental justice in a bid to help reduce the hardship witnessed, the New Zealand national applied for an open PhD position at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), where he now works on a project that fuses urban metabolism and ecosystem services.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Nina Hentzen

Nina Hentzen, an organic chemist working on the chemical synthesis of collagen, is fascinated by research at the interface of chemistry and biology. The Luxembourg national is in the second year of her AFR PhD at ETH Zürich – and has just been selected to attend the renowned 2017 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Kacy Greenhalgh

Kacy Greenhalgh has always had an affectation for medicine and health, and how health can be influenced by dietary habits. During her Master studies, the Luxembourg-American national was introduced to FNR ATTRACT Fellow Paul Wilmes and the ‘gut on a chip’, HuMiX. Fascinated by its potential, and how it could be used to study the relation between diet and health, Kacy’s curiosity led her straight to an AFR PhD at the LCSB at the University of Luxembourg.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Maria Pires Pacheco

Maria Pires Pacheco is a problem solver with a fondness for coding, who was always drawn to the scientist in a group of heroes, rather than the classic hero. During her AFR PhD, the Luxembourg national worked on building tools that help simulate the metabolism of a cell, tools she applied to cancer research during her postdoc.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Michel Summer

For his AFR PhD at Trinity College Dublin, historian Michel Summer is re-assessing the political activity of medieval Anglo-Saxon missionary Willibrord, who in addition to being a landowner, scholar and ambassador, founded a monastery in Luxembourg. We spoke to the Luxembourg national about how history promotes critical thinking, and why he believes historians are needed more than ever.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Remko Nijzink

Climate change affects vegetation and water resources. In order to understand these changes, scientists use models – an abstract, mathematical representation of an ecological system. The challenge: Making accurate predictions under change, without ‘tuning’ models with data. We speak to Dutch national Remko Nijzink, Postdoc in the group of FNR ATTRACT Fellow Dr. Stan Schymanski at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), about his modelling work and the importance of an open science approach.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Multiple nationalities, one goal

What do a French, a Spanish, a Brazilian and an Algerian researcher have in common? In the case of Adeline Boileau, Antonio Salgado Somoza, Clarissa P. C. Gomes and Torkia Lalem, it’s that they are all early-career researchers who came to Luxembourg to join forces in the Cardiovascular Research Unit (CVRU) at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), which aims to identify new personalised strategies to diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Carole Lara Veiga de Sousa

Why can our bodies defend itself against some diseases but not others? This is something Carole Lara Veiga de Sousa has always been eager to understand. In the framework of her PhD at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) and Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), the Portuguese national took at closer look at the microglial cells – immune cells in the central nervous system – and what impact they have on the brain’s ability to fend of infections.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies for analytics purposes. Find out more in our Privacy Statement