weaving a career in neurobiology

a long way round


Becoming a neurobiologist hasn't always been my prime target. In fact, I didn't even care a lot for biology until the final years of school. Even then I didn't care much about the diverging ear-sizes of foxes. Molecular repressors on the other hand I found to be a very neat idea that induced my interest in biological mechanisms. The next thing that caught my interest was the fact that cancer cells are able to reproduce indefinitely while neurons aren't. So my naive brain thought about combining these two cell-types for an obvious solution to paraplegia. Especially since I wanted Christopher Reeve (still alive at that time) to rise up from his wheel-chair and make a new Superman movie.
This could have been a perfectly romantic entrance into neurobiology. But much like a toddler's journey from its first wobbly steps to walking erect, I didn't take the straightest road, skipping all the exploration fun. Instead I matriculated in physics/astronomy at the University of Bonn, due to my ongoing interest in astronomy since my early childhood. After two semesters, though, I realized that although astronomy is a great subject, being an astronomer just wasn't what I wanted to be for the rest of my life. So I switched to the University of Aachen and studied biology. Seeing the beauty in simple but astonishing little things like the open/close mechanism of stomata, re-awakened my fascination for the life sciences. Thus I successfully finished my bachelor's degree in biology and then chose neurobiology as the major of my master's studies.

doing a master's thesis

Prof Dr Jörg Mey (L), Daniel Fandel M.Sc. (R)

So by now I had finally chosen my path. I wanted to work in the field of neuroregeneration, preferably in the spinal cord. I had previously been working in transportation of the disabled for over a year, so I had a quite personal interest in this particular area of neuroscience. Thankfully, there was a research group in Aachen working on this subject. So I contacted group leader Professor Dr. Jörg Mey in order to ask for the opportunity to do my master's thesis in his research group. At that time, however, he had already left the university for spain, where he had established the research group Grupo Regeneración Nerviosa at the Hospital Nacional de Parapléjicos in Toledo. Luckily, Professor Mey offered me the opportunity to do my master's thesis there.
So I spent six months in Toledo, investigating injury-dependent changes in expression of the nuclear receptor PPARα in the spinal cord. After another four months in Germany, quantifying and analyzing the acquired data and writing the actual manuscript, I finally submitted my thesis. The results (together with those of Dante Wasmuht's Bachelor's Thesis) were published in Brain Research under the title: Fandel et al. (2013) Spinal cord injury-induced changes of nuclear receptors PPARα and LXRβ and modulation with oleic acid/albumin treatment. Brain Res. 1535:89-105

outside the lab

poster at EURON PhD Meeting

I spent the following months attending various events: I participated in the EURON PhD Meeting 2012 in Maastricht (Netherlands), where I presented the results of my master's project at a poster session.
In preparation for my future in the lab, I took courses in rat locomotor behaviour analysis techniques as well as in laboratory animal care and experimental methods at the University of Düsseldorf, via the latter obtaining the certificate of technical qualification for people involved in animal testing.

current assignment

As of august 2013 I am doing my doctorate in the Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology at the Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf under the direction of Professor Dr. Hans Werner Müller and Dr. Veronica Estrada, kindly financed by the Jürgen Manchot Stiftung. Here I continue investigating the mechanisms of nerve regeneration after spinal cord injury and its improvement.

Molecular Neurobiology, HHU Düsseldorf, Müller Group