Finding biochemistry – The journey so far

From realising a preference for researching the fundamentals of life, to receiving the GBM Master Thesis Award and embarking on a PhD exploring the structure and function of inflammasomal proteins, finding one's journey in the molecular life sciences is full of pivotal moments.
Finding biochemistry – The journey so far
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My name is Isabell Jamitzky, and I’m currently a PhD student working on inflammasomal proteins. In February 2024, I received the GBM Master Thesis Award for my research titled "Biochemical and structural characterization of proteins of the innate immune system involved in proinflammatory cell death: Gasdermin D." The GBM Award acknowledges research aimed at illuminating the complexities of biochemistry and molecular biology.

Following this recognition, I began my PhD studies at the Geyer lab at the Institute of Structural Biology at the University Hospital Bonn. Looking back, various decisions and experiences have led me here.

In Bonn with a focus on biochemistry

My scientific journey began after completing high school. While I initially aspired to a career in medicine, I quickly realized I was more interested in learning and researching the fundamentals. Driven by curiosity about science, I pursued a chemistry degree at the Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms University Bonn. As my studies progressed, I became increasingly fascinated by biochemistry, particularly its potential applications in medical research.

A pivotal point in my academic journey was approaching Professor Christoph Thiele at the LIMES Institute to express my interest in completing my bachelor's thesis under his guidance. After obtaining my degree, I spent two further years studying lipidomics in his lab.

Master's studies and protein research

Following this, I enrolled in a Master's program in biochemistry, eager to build upon the foundation I established in lipidomics. Lectures, as well as elective lab courses introduced me to proteins and structural biology, ultimately leading me to the Geyer lab. Here, I had the opportunity to work with researchers in the field of structural biology, specifically focusing on inflammasomal proteins.

Investigating Gasdermin D

My master's thesis focused on gasdermin D, a key player in pyroptotic cell death. We were able to identify nanobodies that could inhibit gasdermin D pore formation, potentially offering a new solution for treating inflammatory diseases. Additionally, our work with nanobodies yielded valuable insights into the crystal structure of gasdermin D, by using these as crystallization chaperones. Our work ultimately resulted in a publication in Nature Communications in 2023.

Current research on NLRP6

Building on what I learned in my studies so far, I am now investigating the complexities of NOD-like receptor protein 6 (NLRP6) for my PhD research. This research aims to elucidate the relationship between the function of the protein and its structure, ultimately contributing to our understanding of how our immune defences act against microbial threats. We try to elucidate protein structures with crystallization and electron microscopy to analyze our proteins on an atomic level.

As the function follows the structure, we rely on many biochemical and biophysical methods such as surface plasmon resonance, nano differential scanning fluorimetry, isothermal titration calorimetry, and many more, to help understand the structures we elucidate.

Continuing the journey

As I continue working on my PhD, I am excited to investigate more proteins involved in the innate immune system and learning more techniques to elucidate their functions. Beyond the PhD, life sciences hold a vast landscape of possibilities, and I'm eager to see where my research path leads.

Photo of Isabell Jamitzky standing to the left of a poster showing her research.
Isabell Jamitzky presenting a poster of her research at the Cluster Science Days 2024 in Bonn.
Photo by Isabell Jamitzky.

Top image by Isabell Jamitzky, of her receiving the GBM Master Thesis Award.

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