There isn’t really much to say about my childhood except that I was born in a rural community in the northeast of Germany and that I was very lucky for the Wall to come down when it did.
While in high school I went to work as a freelance contributor for a local newspaper, and for a while I thought about becoming a journalist. Sooner than later, however, I realized that I would make a mediocre journalist at best, so I moved on and tried something else. I studied Biochemistry at the University of Tübingen.
The biochemistry program required students to seek active research experience in labs around the world as part of the curriculum. Through a fellowship I could arrange for a one-year stay as a visiting student in Günter Blobel’s lab at Rockefeller University. Here, I worked on fundamental aspect of protein translocation, and I cannot overstate how transformative that experience was. I finished my diploma thesis in Germany, applied Rockefeller University Graduate Program and one year later I was back in New York City.
I joined Roderick MacKinnon’s lab working on ion channel biochemistry and biophysics. Rod is a true genius and working with him is probably what convinced me to participate in the great adventure that is science.