Postdoctoral Alumni - Michaela Smolle
For her graduate studies at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, Michaela Smolle, Ph.D., focused on biophysics. But, for her postdoctoral studies, Smolle returned to chromatin biology, an area of research that had fascinated her during her undergraduate studies at the University of Edinburgh, also in Scotland.
“There’s so much about chromatin that’s interesting -- how it’s packaged to fit into the cell nucleus and yet has to be rendered accessible for gene transcription to occur,” said Smolle, a Stowers postdoctoral researcher from 2007 to 2013 in the laboratory of Stowers Investigator Jerry Workman, Ph.D., one of the world’s leading scientists in chromatin remodeling and gene regulation.
“Jerry also is a great mentor. He gives people a lot of freedom and support to develop and explore their own ideas,” said Smolle, who is currently an assistant professor for molecular genome biology at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) of Munich, Germany.
At the Stowers Institute, Smolle investigated how various proteins including Set2, Isw1 and Chd1 influence the organization of chromatin, the material that packages and protects DNA in the cell nucleus.
When chromatin is remodeled, its shape and organization is changed to either facilitate or hinder access of the cell’s transcription machinery to the DNA itself. This process of remodeling also affects gene transcription. In the case of remodelers Isw1 and Chd1, they are necessary to prevent the wide-spread production of abnormal transcripts.
“I'm still interested in chromatin remodelers and their impact on chromatin organization,” said Smolle. “In particular, my work now focuses on how the activities of different remodelers can be modulated.”
Smolle also has been teaching LMU medical students and setting up the university’s biophysics core facility. While at the Institute, her research benefitted from the expertise of the Institute’s core centers in proteomics, computational biology, molecular biology, cytometry, and microscopy. “Having access to the core centers meant I could do all sorts of different experiments with experts that could help with experimental design, execution, and analysis,” she said. “It also meant being able to learn new techniques myself as well.”“The working environment at the Stowers Institute is fabulous -- many great colleagues and great facilities,” she added. “And of course I liked the espresso machine, a great place to meet colleagues for a chat.”