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Students from Ohio and Utah are visiting Kiel


Since the end of May, two undergraduate students from the United States have been guests in Kiel. As part of the DAAD- and DFG-funded RISE program they stayed in Kiel for a total of twelve weeks and supported two cluster PhDs in their work. The stay of the two RISE fellows in Kiel was funded by the Cluster of Excellence.

The bioinformatician Daniela Esser does her PhD at the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology (Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein, UKSH) supervised by Professor Philip Rosenstiel. Her research focuses on tumors caused by inflammatory diseases in the intestine (inflammatory bowel disease). Since the end of May, Hayley Buchman, a student from the University of Utah, USA, has stayed in Kiel supporting Daniela Esser with her doctoral thesis. Buchman studies biology and computer science at the University of Utah and will receive her Bachelor Degree in the summer of 2015.

Genetics behind inflammatory bowel diseases

Approximately 320,000 people in Germany suffer from a chronic inflammatory bowel disease, and in roughly 15 to 25 percent of those affected, tumors form in the intestine. Daniela Esser explores in her dissertation which genetic factors are responsible for inflammation-associated tumors. One possible factor that may contribute to the emergence of tumors associated with inflammation are the so-called fusion transcripts. The analyses of these variants is computer-assisted, because the analyses produce huge amounts of data. Buchman’s task was to test different programs and then evaluate them. Furthermore, she developed a pipeline to filter and classify the amount of data in a useful way.

Hayley Buchman visited Germany a few years ago and wanted to return with the RISE program. She summarizes her motivation for participation in the program:  "I wanted to do a course during the summer and gain international experience." Daniela Esser applied for RISE to get support for her work for a few weeks. But another factor was also very important to her: "By taking part in the RISE program I can gain experience in staff supervision."

"Research Internships in Science and Engineering" (RISE) is a program supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and amongst others by the German Research Foundation (DFG). RISE offers North American and British undergraduate students the opportunity of a research stay at German universities. Foreign students should learn both, technical as well as cultural competencies in Germany. The foreign students are supervised by German PhD students from scientific and technical fields. The tandems work together in the doctoral project of the supervising students for a period of six to twelve weeks in Germany. The German doctoral students receive support in their work, improve their language skills and gain initial experience in the field of staff supervision. This year RISE celebrates its tenth anniversary and currently allows 306 tandems to participate in the program.

More information about the program:


Epigenetic causes for cancer

Biotechnologist Jaydeep Bhat is doing his PhD at the Institute for Immunology (UKSH) supervised by Professor Dieter Kabelitz. In his Cluster funded project, Bhat is working on the epigenetic analysis of human γδ T-cells, especially in the context to inflammatory diseases. Samuel Dubin from Ohio State University, USA, studies Biology with Neuroscience Major and will finish his Bachelor next summer. He has already worked in a Neuro-Oncology lab at Ohio State University, and thus has work experience in the relevant field. This made him a perfect candidate to support the PhD project of Jaydeep Bhat.

The human immune system steadily fights against various diseases, for example inflammation and cancer. Cancer cells have the possibility to escape from immune surveillance, which makes cancer a particularly difficult enemy. Tumor cells can smartly express and secret so-called NKG2D ligands, a process called ‘shedding’, which has been studied by the group of Prof. Kabelitz. Upon ‘shedding’ of NKG2D ligands, human γδ T-cells can no longer attack cancer cells. There are connecting links between cancer, human γδ T-cells and epigenetics. Thus, an initial study by Bhat led to a small sub-project within his PhD thesis, which Dubin took care of. His job was to cultivate different cancer cells and to stain the cells with antibodies prior to multicolor analysis on a flow cytometer. This analysis allowed him to characterize the cancer cells in detail since presence of receptors and ligands can easily be detected using flow cytometry.

Jaydeep Bhat and Samuel Dubin working in the lab.
Foto: Tebke Böschen

Dubin intended to get a new perspective on the interdisciplinary research between immunology, oncology and epigenetics in an international lab. With this idea in mind, he came across Bhat’s project in the RISE database. Dubin sums up the output from the summer internship project for himself: “I will definitely benefit from what I’ve learned here in Kiel for both, my undergraduate studies and future research.” Bhat is thankful to Dubin, as his helping hand allowed him to investigate an unexpected sub-project of his PhD: “The findings on tumor immune escape and epigenetic modulation is very exciting and promising for my PhD project. Eventually it may help for designing better treatment options in the clinic.”

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