Q&A with digital PCR quiz winner, Laurent Starck

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We’re happy to announce that Laurent Starck is among the top three scorers of this year’s digital PCR quiz. Laurent is a Ph.D. student at the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry at the University of Freiburg, Germany. A special congratulations to Laurent!

How did you first get interested in science and nano neuroscience research?

As long as I can remember, I have always been interested in science. As a kid, I was watching science shows on TV and building some electronics devices in my spare time. Science classes were also my favorites at school, by far. Deciding to study science was, therefore, a natural choice. The choice of my field was more complicated, though, since I liked everything. I finally settled for biology, intending to join the pharma industry later. My choice for neuroscience specialization does not come only from the attractiveness of the field, but also because I could join an amazing tri-national master program in neuroscience, which was a unique opportunity.

Can you give us a summary of the project you are currently doing?

Currently, I am studying at the interface between material science and biology. I am focusing my work on exploring how the physical cues (nanoroughness) modulate astrocytes function, and how this could influence the early stages of brain tumor formation.

What is a typical day for you in the lab?

At the beginning of the project, my typical working day was fully packed with planning and performing experiments (mostly cell culture, microscopy, and molecular biology), data analysis, reading, writing, and presenting.

With time, as I was gaining experience, I got more responsibilities, and my tasks diversified. I got involved in the recruitment process of the technical staff, became in charge of some equipment maintenance. I am also involved in mentoring the junior Ph.D. students and in teaching both apprentices and students.

What do you find most interesting and most challenging about your project?

I work on a vastly understudied topic. Both astrocyte function and nano topography are themes that are really overlooked. The lack of knowledge in those areas encourages creativity and problem solving, and represents a significant challenge day after day. I would say it is, at the same time, exciting and challenging.

How can your research plan benefit from digital PCR?

Doing mostly gene expression quantitation studies, digital PCR could be advantageous in improving my results, thanks to its absolute quantification, high reliability and precision. Directly applied to my project, though, I do not think that dPCR will allow me to do things that our qPCR does not already do. But I might change my mind after the demo from QIAGEN dPCR experts.

Where do you see neuroscience research with digital PCR heading in the next few years?

I think dPCR will still need a few years to reach most of the research laboratories and have an impact on fundamental neuroscience research. However, I believe dPCR will quickly become a prodigious tool in the clinic as a diagnostics platform. Personalized medicine is knocking on our door, and the ability of dPCR to detect rare mutations will undoubtedly revolutionize the field of cancer biology very soon.

Which QIAGEN products do you use, and what do you like about the products?

In the different laboratories I have worked in, I have always used the RNeasy to extract RNA from both tissues and cells. I love them! The ease of use combined with the high quality of the extracted RNA makes it my top choice for this application.

In my current lab, our whole qPCR setup is based on the QIAGEN kits and instruments and allows us to get results in an easy, quick, and reliable manner. I especially appreciate the QIAgility pipetting robot, everybody who has done a lot of PCR should understand why.

Outside of science, what are your hobbies?

I firmly believe that extracurricular activities are a crucial point in personal development. They allow you to learn unique skills that can be transferred to professional and personal life. My passion is kayaking slalom, a sport in which I have competed for more than 15 years. I am highly engaged in my kayaking club by being a board member and by coaching younger athletes. I also like music and play the piano.

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Why are you excited to come to QIAGEN?

I am always keen to discover and experience new things, and I am so excited to have the opportunity to discover dPCR from experts in the field.

Kurchi Bhattacharya

Kurchi Bhattacharya, Ph.D. is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at QIAGEN, and is responsible for creating compelling content for multichannel marketing campaigns, product launches, and events. Before joining QIAGEN in 2016, she has had a pan-continental scientific research experience during her undergraduate and graduate studies. In 2015, she received her Ph.D. from the University of Cologne, Germany, specializing in molecular biology and biochemistry. After that, Kurchi continued working as a postdoctoral researcher at the same university and in parallel started acquiring skills in the field of science communication.

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