“I had to stray off the traditional course”

Iswariya is from India. She came to Germany to earn her “Scientist-hood”, as she calls it. Now, she is a PhD student in a EUROIMMUN laboratory.

Maybe you can tell us why you came to Germany and to EUROIMMUN?

Well, in a country like India, women often are expected to put the needs of their family ahead of their careers. I was aware that, let’s say, a glass ceiling was needed to be broken here and that I had to stray off the traditional course and reach for a new direction; if I were to ever earn my ‘Scientist-hood’.

In order to be a successful researcher, Europe was the right place for me, especially a country like Germany which, for me, is a leader in many theoretical and technical fields and in scientific research. So I rampaged through numerous postings and advertisements to apply for a PhD position. I was seeking a diverse workplace where opportunity is given based on ambition and talent and EUROIMMUN was one place that stood out amongst my other placement acceptances.

Would you also introduce your PhD project? How do you feel about working here?

Every single day during the past 8 months has been remarkable as well as challenging for me at the same time. I was introduced to state-of-the-art diagnostics- as well as highly sophisticated analysis-techniques in the field of neurodegenerative diseases. My PhD project is titled “Novel antigenic-targets of autoantibodies in dementia” with a prospect of identifying new-fangled antigens apart from amyloid-beta in Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

I guess Alzheimer’s disease needs no prior introduction. It is considered to be the leading cause of dementia in the elderly. Diagnostically, cerebrospinal fluid levels of amyloid-beta and phosphorylated tau in addition to various imaging markers have been considered as the most promising biomarkers and by far, have had the highest utility value in dementia diagnosis. Unfortunately they serve limited use as progression markers and have established no direct link with the disease-state. Therefore, there is a pressing need to identify disease-specific autoantibodies and their antigenic targets that in turn would play as suitable biomarkers for accurate and early detection of AD. My primary motivation towards this project was this lack of an ideal blood-based biomarker in case of a severe neurodegenerative disorder like AD.

What about your work in the lab?

I work with EUROIMMUN’s standardized in-house BIOCHIP technology that allows for miniaturization and standardization of immune-biochemical analysis. It helped me to quickly become proficient in indirect immunofluorescence technique (IIFT) and to kick start my project in terms of screening and detection of autoantibodies in serum samples obtained from AD patients.

In the near future, different isoforms of amyloid-beta will also be prepared and blot techniques will be implemented to determine the autoantibody specificity against the particular amyloid-beta isoform. Additional prospective experiments are ‘Autoantibody target-antigen Identification’ by implementation of techniques like immunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry.

After 8 months of work in the EUROIMMUN laboratory, what do you think about your decision to come here?

Honestly, I have never looked back since the day I joined EUROIMMUN. I am glad that my novel ideas in the field of antigen discovery are constantly appreciated here by my supervisors. The institution presents me with countless opportunities in order to observe and participate in various ongoing research projects and unceasingly support me with the necessary scientific, technical, and professional foundations in order to successfully carry out my scientific research. It helped me broaden my horizon in terms of scientific research and development. The company possesses an outstanding learning atmosphere and lays the right foundation for innovative research.

I hope to be a case-in-point in a few years from now being an Indian woman who earned her “Scientist-hood”.

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