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30 under 30: Designing New Ways to Stop Tumors

Meet Nadja Bertleff, one of the promising young chemists attending the 2013 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting



Courtesy of Nadja Bertleff

Each year hundreds of the best and brightest researchers gather in Lindau, Germany, for the Nobel Laureate Meeting. There, the newest generation of scientists mingles with Nobel Prize winners and discusses their work and ideas. The 2013 meeting is dedicated to chemistry and will involve young researchers from 78 different countries. In anticipation of the event, which will take place from June 30 through July 5, we are highlighting a group of attendees under 30 who represent the future of chemistry. The following profile is the 16th in a series of 30.

Name: Nadja Bertleff
Age: 27
Born: Heidelberg, Germany
Nationality: German

Current position: PhD student at the Institute for Organic Chemistry at the University of Würzburg in Germany
Education: Master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Würzburg

What is your field of research?
I am designing and synthesizing carbohydrate-based inhibitors for the tumor-associated protein galectin-1. My research project is highly interdisciplinary and includes techniques from organic synthesis, biochemistry, protein crystallization, and computational chemistry.

What drew you to chemistry, and to that research area in particular?
Early on, I was inspired by renowned research centers such as the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and the German Cancer Research Center, both in Heidelberg, my birthplace. I became fascinated by biological and physiological processes on a molecular level and by the idea of better understanding these complex events. From the chemist’s perspective, the design and synthesis of tailor-made compounds to address and interfere with the severe malfunctions inherent in diseases seemed enormously challenging. I enjoy working at the intersection of chemistry, biology and medicine in my current position. I also benefit greatly from discussions and collaborations with colleagues from diverse scientific backgrounds.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I hope that I will continue to work in a stimulating atmosphere with people around me that inspire and encourage me to question complex issues. In 10 years I see myself leading my own group in an interdisciplinary research center and working on the biggest life science questions of our generation.

Who are your scientific heroes?
I look up to scientists who pursue their research with enthusiasm, who are open-minded for new ideas and techniques, who inspire young fellows, and are socially responsible. Linus Pauling is one of these heroes, and I admire his contributions to the nature of the chemical bond and elucidation of its structure as well as his activism against war and nuclear weapons tests.

What activities outside of chemistry do you most enjoy?
I love to travel around the world and discover new places. The most impressive experiences I’ve had were touring New Zealand in a camper and traveling through the volcanic and glacier-covered landscape of Iceland.

What do you hope to gain from this year’s Lindau meeting?
In Lindau I will meet investigators that were awarded with the most renowned prize in science—the Nobel Prize! I am excited to learn more about their research, obstacles and successes in their academic careers. I am extremely curious about their predictions on how research will develop in the future and how scientific responsibility should be practiced. I am looking forward to the stimulating and inspiring atmosphere in Lindau and to fruitful discussions with like-minded young scientists. I am convinced this event will help me to plan my next upcoming career step: a postdoctoral stay abroad.

Are there any Nobelists whom you are particularly excited to meet?
Aaron Ciechanover and Richard Ernst. It will be exciting to meet a Nobelist who does research in a field that is very close to my own project. I am looking forward to Aaron Ciechanover’s talk about drug development in the 21st century. Richard Ernst made outstanding contributions to the field of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy—an analytic tool I use every day for determining the structure of synthetic compounds and macromolecules such as proteins.

 

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15. Vijay Chudasama
30 Under 30:
Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
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17. Magnus Johnson

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