published: February 9, 2011
A Dream Job in Geneva
Markus Kaufmann is the manager of the new Bio-Molecular Analysis Platform (BMA) of the Arc Lémanique Plant Science at the University of Geneva. Thanks to this position he not only found his dream job, but also his dream city to live in.
By Markus Kaufmann
As a postdoctoral fellow, I worked in Los Angeles for more than 5 years. Now that I am working in Geneva, I realize that my new place of work is the one Swiss city that is most similar to Los Angeles, because of its diversity. I appreciate that, but even more I appreciate the diversity of the proteins, that I am characterizing and the diversity of the customers of the Bio-molecular analysis platform, that I am collaborating with.
I offer technologies to quantify and qualify the interaction of proteins and other biological macromolecules. With ITC micro-calorimetry, I determine the binding constants and the stoechiometry of molecular interaction between proteins and also RNA or DNA. With MALS light scattering, I determine if the functional form of a protein is a monomer, a dimer or even a dodecamer. In some cases, there are multiple forms present, but only one form is active. I can help to elucidate, whether a protein is forming a complex with another macromolecule, or whether it has a globular structure only in the presence of an interaction partner. In addition, I consult and assist researchers in finding ways to produce sufficient amounts of a protein. This is still a bottle neck in many plant science laboratories. I hope I will be able to assist researchers in producing also challenging proteins in large quantities.
As a student, I was astonished by the diversity of biophysical methods. First, it was an overwhelming task to understand the physical and mathematical background for each method. Nowadays, I know that it is good to understand, but, even more important, that it is essential to know, which qualitative and quantitative information can be obtained with a particular method and how a sample has to be prepared to obtain meaningful data. During our technology platform road-show, visiting all SPSW institutes, I remember a statement made by a professor: “You presented methods, I had not even heard of”. I was thinking: Exactly. This is the reason why we came to visit. We would like to introduce new methods to the Swiss plant science research community.
I was asked by the editor of this newsletter: What is your dream instrument or dream technique? Let me answer in the following way: It is not a single biophysical technique; it is the variety of methods that can be applied in combination to evaluate the property and the function of biological macromolecules. Therefore, my long term goal is to expand my activities in Geneva, and hopefully to establish a BMA platform, that serves not only the Swiss Plant Science Web but also the different departments at the University. Such a protein characterization unit could be combined with a technology center that supports researchers in producing proteins.