Please learn more about colleagues in our "Personal Touch" series setting employees in the spotlight. A light-hearted manner to learn about the colleagues you know and those you don't!.
This week: Sarah Merkling
1. Name &
Sarah Merkling, French
2. When you were a kid
what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid, I wanted to become a piano teacher.
3. What was your
previous academic training, where did you study?
Before starting my PhD in Nijmegen, I performed my Bachelor and Master's studies at the University of Strasbourg, France. My Bachelor program offered basic training in cell biology and physiology, along with some chemistry, physics, and mathematics. For my Master's, I decided to focus on cell and molecular biology, with a focus on immunology. During my final internship, I participated to studies on insect immunity using fruit flies (Drosophila) as model organisms. I enjoyed this subject so much that I decided to continue my PhD in this field by joining the lab of Ronald van Rij at the RIMLS.
4. What is your current
function and what would you like to achieve?
I am currently in the last year of my PhD. Our lab investigates how insects, such as mosquitos or fruit flies, defend themselves against viruses. Not only is it interesting at a fundamental level, but this research could also contribute to the development of new strategies to prevent arthropod-borne diseases. My PhD is mainly focused on the study of a histone-modifying enzyme called G9a. Our team demonstrated that G9a epigenetically regulates innate immunity, and is essential for antiviral defense. After graduation, I will continue my path in academic research by moving on to a post-doc position, where I can hopefully work on these research lines
5. The RIMLS motto is
'to understand molecular mechanisms of disease'. What
does this mean for you?
I think this motto highlights the essential role of excellent fundamental research in understanding the molecular mechanisms of disease. The importance of basic research tends to be neglected at the profit of "applied" or "translational" studies. However, it is important to realize that both sides need to be supported and co-exist equaly for the sustainability of biomedical sciences.
6. What is the biggest
motivation in your work?
My work is mainly motivated by curiosity, and the excitement of testing new hypotheses. It is a daunting, but also very exciting task to discover something new about "mother nature" and, hopefully, contribute a very small piece to scientific knowledge.
7. What is your dream
for the future?
I have many dreams … First, I hope that our future governments and funding agencies will continue to encourage and support scientific development trough investments in science and education. Second, I hope that scientist will learn to better communicate with society, and convince the public to give science the support and trust it needs. Finally, I dream that the scientific community will progressively shift to an entire open-access model for scientific publications, because publicly funded research should be accessible to everyone. Altough this sounds idealistic, I believe things can improve when enough people move towards it.
8. Fun-facts. State an
interesting/obscure fact about yourself together with
two that are false? Correct answer will
be revealed to readers in the subsequent edition.
A: I once tasted the food we normally give to the flies.
B: I travelled to New York to visit the first fly lab in history at the University of Columbia.
C: I once talked with the French president in Amsterdam.
Correct answer will be revealed to readers in the subsequent edition.
Correct answer of Marije Behet: B
interesting/obscure fact about yourself together
with two that are false
A: I never hiked a long-distance trail.
B: I once spent the night at the lab for an experiment.
C: I can speak Spanish fluently.
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