Eberhard Karls University Tübingen- EKU- Germany
1. How did you get into the autophagy field and why is the field important to you?
I found new genes, human WIPI1 through WIPI4/WDR45, and initially observed that WIPI1 should function in autophagy. I had not studied autophagy before and my first reaction was something like “Oh no – this sounds boring” and “Oh well – I still have another 97 new genes identified to go with”. With this emotion I downloaded a substantial amount of literature on autophagy and read those non-stop for three days at home. I returned to the lab completely hooked on this subject and this excitement is with me ever since. Why? Because if we’ll understand autophagy in more molecular detail, we’ll understand more about how our lifespan is defined and what can be done to extend the health span in human.
2. What is a key question in the autophagy field now? Where do you think the field is heading?
I see three important questions. First, what are the signalling networks regulating autophagy. Second, how are the different ATGs regulated in their involvement in the process of autophagy. Third, how can we modulate autophagy in future therapies to combat age-related human diseases.
3. Should you meet any scientist, currently living or deceased, who would it be and why?
If possible, I’d travel through a wormhole and meet future scientists in the year 3500 or so. It would be thrilling to see which of our current paradigms in science will have been trashed and which new concepts have evolved by then.
4. What advice do you have for early career scientists that want to enter the autophagy field?
Career paths for scientists are changing in important ways. Artificial intelligence combined with automated experimentation provides tremendous opportunities to develop new hypotheses and challenge those much faster than it was ever possible in life sciences. Our time is very exciting and it is up to early career scientists to take the lead in defining new career paths, also in autophagy research. Take part in this endeavour, and don’t forget – science is about discovering the truth, often happening by serendipity.