Foteini Mourkioti

Foteini Mourkioti

Nationality: Greek

Foteini joined EMBL as a postdoc in 2003. She is currently an Instructor at Stanford University in California, United States.

“During my postdoctoral time, I got the opportunity to be exposed to world-class scientific training.”  

After completing a bachelor degree in Biology in Greece followed by her Ph.D. in Germany, Foteini joined the EMBL Monterotondo in Italy for a postdoctoral position.  Foteini describes her motivation to join EMBL as “the possibility to work in an international environment that was committed to excellence in research and innovation.” Her work focused on understanding the role of different cell types and various signalling pathways in mammalian regeneration mechanisms of skeletal and cardiac muscle.

What she liked best about her postdoctoral time at EMBL was “the free exchange of scientific approaches, ideas, unpublished data and the generosity of EMBL scientists to help with experimental problems when needed.”

Foteini is currently working at Stanford University in California where her main focus of research is to study the cardiac and skeletal muscle defects in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) as well as to develop and test new therapies. She was the recipient of a prestigious Career Development Award from the American Heart Association to support her research. She also teaches and participates in various training activities at the Stanford Medical School.

She encourages new postdocs to interact with colleagues also outside of the lab. “The people you meet at EMBL will not only be your friends but also future scientific collaborators” she says.

Daniel Gerlich

Daniel Gerlich

Nationality: German

Daniel joined EMBL as a postdoc in 2002. He is currently a senior research group leader at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, Austria.

“I was attracted by the scientific excellence at EMBL, the cutting-edge technology available, and the international ambience.”

While at EMBL Daniel worked on various projects aimed at understanding chromosome organisation in vertebrates during the cell cycle. Key to his postdoctoral experience was the collaborative spirit amongst research groups, within and outside of EMBL: “I valued the frequent scientific discussions with postdocs, PhD colleagues and PIs throughout our research unit and beyond.”

His most challenging task was to progress from postdoctoral fellow to group leader, but even here EMBL proved its worth: ”I am grateful for the helpful advice and generous support that I received from my postdoc supervisor during the transition to build up my independent research group.”

Now working as a senior research group leader at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna, Austria, Daniel continues to contribute to the fields of chromosome organisation and cell division. His group is investigating how cytoskeletal and membrane systems shape emerging daughter cells.

Daniel advises new postdocs: “Benefit from the great opportunities at EMBL and facilities and from the collaborative spirit – this enables interdisciplinary research projects that would be hard to achieve at many other places.”

Gemma Holliday

Gemma Holliday

Nationality: British

Gemma joined EMBL-EBI as a postdoc in 2005. She is currently a junior PI at the University of California, San Francisco.

“It was a very supportive environment – you are encouraged to spread your (research) wings.”

It was not a particular quality but a particular person who attracted Gemma to EMBL-EBI: “I had collaborated with Janet Thornton's group during my PhD,” she says. “The prospect of working for her, as one of the UK’s leading scientists, was very exciting.”

Gemma came to EMBL –EBI to build upon her PhD work – the creation of a unique database of enzyme reaction mechanisms called MACiE (Mechanism, Annotation and Classification in Enzymes). In her new role at the University of California, she continues as the MACiE project leader.

“The whole purpose of my research was, and still is, understanding the chemistry of enzymes,” Gemma says. As a postdoc, she used MACiE data to expand analysis of how enzymes perform myriad complex chemistries with such a small range of chemical units. Later on, her research expanded to include the evolution of function within enzymes, in collaborative projects within the group and further afield.

“EMBL’s postdoctoral programme is very strong, especially with respect to its support infrastructure,” she says. “There are a lot of challenges in moving from PhD to postdoctoral research, such as learning to be more assertive and confident in yourself as a scientist. I found the mentoring process especially useful, as well as the ability to talk to other people who had been through the transition.”

From gaining experience as a course trainer to supervising PhD students, Gemma embraced many different opportunities for learning and development as a postdoc. “I'm not sure there was any one thing that I liked best about my time at EMBL, specifically the EBI,” she concludes. “It is a wonderful environment to work in.”