I joined the Bonn & Melbourne Research and Graduate School in 2016 and completed it in January 2020 with a Doctor of Philosophy in Experimental Medicine. Since I was living in Germany at that time, I started my studies in the laboratory of Prof. Natalio Garbi in Bonn and continued my work in the group of Prof. Ian van Driel in Melbourne later. During this time, I greatly benefited from the individual expertise of my two supervisors in the field of lung immunology, in which I was conducting my research.
My PhD project aimed to identify novel mechanisms by which pulmonary epithelial cells and myeloid cells eliminate invading bacteria from the lungs. For this, infections of mice with the pathogen Legionella longbeachae were used to investigate a severe and often fatal form of pneumonia in humans, known as Legionnaires’ disease. One of the main findings of my project was that signaling of the Interleukin-18 receptor in pulmonary ciliated epithelial cells promotes the antimicrobial activity of neutrophils. This highlights a possible non-canonical role of IL18 in the defense against lung pathogens, linking non-immune cells with inflammatory cells.
Overall, joining the Bonn & Melbourne Research and Graduate School allowed me to conduct research on a topic of my interest and to experience working in two different environments. Here, I had the opportunity to learn from an interdisciplinary team of colleagues, which greatly benefited my project and gave me insight into further scientific fields. Apart from science, living in a foreign country also allowed me to experience a different culture and way of living. I have many great memories from exploring Australia during my one-year stay and I met some wonderful people, of which some became close friends.
After graduating my interest shifted from laboratory research to clinical research. Therefore, I am currently doing a short course in clinical research and clinical monitoring with the ultimate goal to first gain experience as Clinical Research Associate and eventually later work as a Clinical Research Manager.
My advice for current or prospective students is that communication is key for a successful PhD. It allows you to check in on your progress, to address problems, and find suitable solutions. This especially gains importance, when working at two separate locations with different colleagues. Apart from this, one great strength of the PhD program is the community of former and current students, which can provide advice and help when necessary. Overall, I believe that this PhD program offers a great opportunity for students interested to conduct research in immunology.
Victoria Madeleine Scheiding
“Immune defense mechanisms against Legionella longbeachae”