30 under 30: Cultivating Life within Droplets

Meet Tomasz Kaminski, one of the promising young chemists attending the 2013 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

Courtesy of Tomasz Kaminski

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 24th in a series of 30.

Name: Tomasz Kaminski
Age: 26
Born: Krasnik, Poland
Nationality: Polish

Current position: PhD student at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Education: BS and MS in biotechnology from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Poland

What is your field of research?
My research interests focus on droplet microfluidics and applications of this technology in biochemistry and microbiology. Currently, I am involved in several research projects involving new techniques for droplet handling, new microfluidic methods for DNA detection and quantification, reconstitution of lipid membranes on chips, and long-term cultivation of microorganisms in devices called micro-droplet chemostats.

What drew you to chemistry, and to that research area in particular?
In primary and high school I always enjoyed learning natural sciences, especially chemistry and biology. Joining the Institute of Physical Chemistry was a breakthrough for my career. Here, in a highly interdisciplinary and open environment, I have acquired my research awareness and learned basic rules about how to become a true scientist.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
During next 10 years, I would like to complete my PhD studies and leave my country in order to conduct interesting and fruitful postdoctoral research. Then, I would like to come back to Poland and start my independent career. I am not yet sure about what I would investigate, but I have some ideas of combining microfluidics with tissue engineering and genetics to study the evolution of drug resistance in cancer cells.

Who are your scientific heroes?
Maria Sklodowska-Curie is the most admired scientist in my country, and I cannot disagree with this opinion. She was undoubtedly a woman 100 years ahead of her time. The best summary of her career is the iconic picture of the Solvay Conference attendees where she was the only woman and the only Nobel laureate who had earned two Nobel Prizes amidst the most famous scientists at the beginning of the 20th century.

What is your dream study or experiment? If you had unlimited resources, what kind of research would you conduct?
If I had unlimited resources, I would like to investigate aspects of the origin of life and make an effort towards creating a synthetic minimal “protocell” able to self-replicate. So far, these types of projects seem to too risky for young researchers like me.

What activities outside of chemistry do you most enjoy?
I enjoy sports (especially squash and working out at the gym) and traveling. I also like listening to many types of music and going to concerts.

What do you hope to gain from this year's Lindau meeting?
I expect that the meeting will be a great opportunity to learn from the best researchers about how to identify and solve the most crucial problems in science.

Some big challenges for young scientists include setting up a new research team, figuring out a way to manage and supervise students, and collaborating with other researchers. I hope that the Nobel laureates will share their experiences and opinions in the matter of combining science and management.

Networking with scientists of a similar age is of equal importance. I hope the other students will find my microfluidic technologies interesting, and maybe this meeting will result in new scientific collaborations.

Are there any Nobelists whom you are particularly excited to meet?
Since the aim of one of my research projects is to develop new microfluidic techniques for studying membrane proteins, I am especially excited to meet and learn from the biochemists Peter Agre and Brian Kobilka.

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23. Simone Mayer
30 Under 30:
Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
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25. Sandra García-Gallego

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