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Shooting elementary particles at proteins in Leeds (UK)

Will power is to the mind like a strong blind man who carries on his shoulders a lame man who can see.

(Arthur Schopenhauer – The World as Will and Representation, Book 2, Chapter 19)

My name is Andreas Kiessling, I am from a village near Heidelberg (Germany), and I am working at the University of Leeds at the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology with Adrian Goldman. I am originally from a working-class background as my parents were running a small bakery for the better part of their lives. This had an impact on me up until today as their make-do work mentality has helped me a lot in overcoming the obstacles of failed experiments and enduring long study nights.

If you would ask me a hundred times what my dream job would be, I would always answer with “Scientist” without hesitation. To me, life is like one big videogame, with us being characters in it that are able to explore and interact with the world around them. I strongly believe that science is the driving motor behind all advancements in society and I can contribute to this big puzzle even by a little – how awesome is that?!

Structures, structures, structures… and a bit of everything

Image of a protein sample obtained with an electron microscope – you can actually see the protein itself at that magnification!

As you might have guessed from the title, I am mainly interested in structure models of proteins, which in my case is about the bacterial adhesion protein BpaC. There are no structures of any part of this protein (yet) so I have a large freedom of choice what I want to do and what questions I want to answer until the end of my PhD. It can either be by solving the structures of parts of the protein by X-Ray crystallography or obtaining a structural model of the whole protein by cryo-electron microscopy or doing something totally different. As a biochemist, I am intrigued by the function of this class of proteins as they are so versatile and there is still so much to learn about them! I am happy that I am inside a network which allows me access to techniques or knowledge that would otherwise be hard to obtain, as my social skills still need some improvement.

You gotta love the Brits – now more than ever!

In January this year, a long list of leading German politicians from across all democratic parties wrote an open letter to the Times in which they implored the UK to ditch Brexit altogether. Having lived in the UK for a bit more than a year now, I would have full-heartedly signed this letter. If you don’t fall in love with this country after experiencing a crowded pub singing along “Sweet Caroline” on a Friday night then there has to be something wrong with you! But of course, there are also some downsides in experiencing all of British culture, in particular the food “culture”. Having lived inside a bakery for 18 years of my life, good bread is definitely something I miss a lot. Luckily there is a solution for everything; you just have to look hard enough! Hopefully I will still able to import my favourite chocolate after Brexit – fingers crossed.


When in Leeds…

My passion for science stems from my interest in SciFi, philosophy, and in exploring nature. There is a certain tranquillity that I can only obtain when being in nature, so I try to escape the noises of the city every fortnight to have a hike in all the different green areas around Leeds. Nothing better than coming back from a long hike and enjoying a good cup of coffee and a well-deserved piece of Victoria sponge cake!

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