Even as a child I was magically drawn to the “unknown”, and this inborn curiosity has proved useful for my life as a scientist. When I started my studies in biology in Salzburg and my passion for research grew, I soon realised that my next step would lead me to the USA, where the bulk of “knowledge generation” occurs. And now, a year and a half into my stay at one of the leading laboratories for electrophysiology and cell signalling, I still have not fully realised my luck. Time flies, but I am also looking forward to returning to Austria with a wealth of valuable experience.
Place of Research
After my final oral exam I went on a long trip that also took me to Hawaii after stops in Asia and New Zealand. Here I paid a visit to the renowned laboratory headed by Reinhold Penner and Andrea Fleig, before returning home via California. Both have studied and done research with Erwin Neher, Nobel Laureate and founder of the patch-clamp technique. I was overwhelmed by the cordiality with which they both welcomed me into their team even before it was decided that I would actually move to the other side of the globe. Their kindness and the fact that my partner Herbert accepted a postdoc position as a physicist at the University of Hawaii facilitated my decision.
Punchbowl is the name of the volcanic crater near which our research lab is located, and there is no better description for the multicultural mix that has developed in Hawaii over centuries. There is a constant coming and going on the islands, creating a flux that is sometimes difficult to keep up with. The people here have approached us with a mix of kindness, helpfulness and curiosity that is remarkable and infectious. This openness and internationalism, which is also perceptible in the scientific arena, has enabled us to gather unique experience and establish contacts that will prove invaluable for our future professional and personal development.
“You have to try the impossible to achieve the possible” (Herman Hesse). This motto has accompanied my life and helped me not to be discouraged when attempts to verify hypotheses or finding answers to my questions seemed hopeless. Although science has supplied many answers, our knowledge is still full of huge gaps. It is my aim to make a contribution to reducing or perhaps even closing some of these gaps. I hope that the answers we have found so far and are still going to find will also result in high-quality international publications.
The incredible diversity of the flora and fauna in the tropics, swimming with dolphins in Kealakekua Bay, watching monk seals take a sunbath, hearing the crackling of a bamboo forest in the wind, seeing giant turtles glide by, surfing a wave towards the shore, feeling the Aloha spirit, witnessing how an Afro-American who grew up in Hawaii could be elected President of the United States, looking through a microscope to observe a mast cell releasing its granules or watching an ion flux develop at the oscilloscope – all of these are unforgettable impressions I would not have missed for the world and which I am going to cherish forever.
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