Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Jasmin Steudler

Date of news: 2 January 2023

2307126What's your name, nationality, current function, and department?
My name is Jasmin Steudler and I am from Switzerland. I am in the second year of my PhD at the DCN. My project is shared between the groups of Freyja Òlafsdòttir and Anne-Sophie Hafner.

What is the topic of your PhD project and how does your work look like in practice?
In my project I want to investigate the molecular and systemic mechanisms of memory development, specifically childhood amnesia. Childhood amnesia means that we are not able to remember events that happened before around three years of age. During this period of life our hippocampus undergoes maturation, which then allows us to form long-term memories and to recall those memories in our adulthood. However, the underlying mechanisms of memory maturation are pretty much unknown.

For this project, I combine different molecular methods with in vivo electrophysiological recordings in mouse pups. In particular we use fluorescent activated sorting of synaptic particles followed by proteomic and transcriptomic analysis to identify the change in molecular composition of synapses during memory maturation. Based on this data we will target potential key molecules in electrophysiological experiments, for which we insert tetrodes into the hippocampus of mouse pups,performing a learning and memory task. Based on this we hope to get insight into the effects of molecular candidates on the neuronal network level.

In practice my work days depend a lot on the type of experiments I am doing. For example: I spend some days on preparing the miniature tetrodes that I then implant into the mouse brains. After this I usually spend around two weeks with mothering mouse pups and trying to motivate them with formula milk to do their task.

What did you want to be when you were younger?
s a small child I could not decide whether I wanted to be an architect or a dentist. I really liked drawing houses (of course not knowing that I will have to perform complicated maths for being an architect…) but I was also a big fan of my dentist back then and wanted to become like her. Later on, when life became a bit more serious I was convinced that I wanted to become a midwife until I realized during high school, when I did an internship in a research lab, that my dream is to become a biologist.

What has your career path been so far and how did you come to your current position?
Although, I chose to focus on music during high school, my passion for biology became stronger and stronger. Immediately after, I started my bachelors in biology. I continued with a masters in molecular life sciences with the focus on neurobiology and immunology. For my one-year masters internship I was working on a project about multiple sclerosis. After this internship I got the opportunity to continue on the project as a research assistant for another year, which also gave me time to find a PhD position. During all this time I had a lot of student jobs. However, two of them supported my studies pretty well. For one job I worked in a molecular plant science lab and for the other one I isolated blood cells of patients for a cohort study in a hospital. Both of them helped me to gain experiences in molecular and cell-biological lab techniques. For my dream PhD project I wanted to get the opportunity to learn a variety of methods. Further, I wanted to continue working on the brain but not on a disease-related topic anymore and I wanted to gain experiences outside of Switzerland. And that is how I ended up here.

What aspect of your job do you excel at?
Considering my passion for working on tiny and tricky things, that require a bit of fine motor skills the experimental work I have to do for my project could not be better. Even more I appreciate the variety that my project comes with and in general a PhD: experiments, analysis, reading, writing - to feel responsible for something. All together it is really satisfying to see something growing that I put a lot of effort in.

What aspect of your job is or has been a challenge for you?
I love planning and organising things and in my previous job as a research assistant I achieved a pretty independent level, where I was able to plan a lot of experiments myself. I think a challenge for me, when I started my PhD project, was to accept to step back from a quite independent position, and give this task - at least for the beginning - into the hands of my new PIs.