“It’s a fascinating challenge to develop my ideas…”
What’s next? Academia or industry? Finding a solution to this difficult question whilst planning an individual career path is one of the most crucial challenges that early-career researchers have to tackle. In our new series, we asked our BioMed X researchers how they began their journey and what role BioMed X Institute played in it.
We talked to Dr. Martin Resnik Docampo who joined BioMed X Institute in 2019 as group leader of team IEB (Intestinal Epithelial Barrier in Autoimmune Diseases), one of BioMed X’s current research programs in the field of immunology. Martin has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Prior to this position he worked from 2012 onwards as Postdoctoral Researcher and Assistant Project Scientist at the Molecular Cell and Biology Department at the Universitiy of California, USA.
BioMed X: “Martin, what did you study and why?”
Martin Resnik: “In the nineties, there was a boom in genetics and molecular biology, and I have always had interest in applied sciences – especially about what happened in the cells, organisms, and in the human body. I studied biochemistry at the Autonoma University of Madrid, the same institution in which I completed my Ph.D. studies. Working in Drosophila wing development in a very interesting and enriching atmosphere allowed me to learn significantly from the hub of Garcia-Bellido School.
After finishing the Ph.D. I moved to the USA to start a postdoctoral career; I wanted to continue working on research and to know how it is to be a researcher abroad. So, I moved to California, to the Salk Institute for one year, to spent seven years researching at the UCLA, where I focused on aging and the intestine of the Drosophila. It was during these years when my interest in the epithelial intestinal barrier started growing. Although I started in a project centered on the mitochondria, some unexplainable results pushed my curiosity and my research towards a second project that became the most striking one to study, the relationship between the intestinal barrier disruption and aging. At the end of this successful project is when I applied for a new research project with BioMed X Institute – and got the position of a group leader.”
BioMed X: “What was your biggest challenge? Any lessons you had to learn?”
MR: “One of the biggest work-related challenges for me, was to come to Germany and Biomed X. Moving from USA to Europe and changing from academia to a hybrid model between the industry and academia was quite a challenge.
But the thing that made me go out of my comfort zone, was to change my research, from using the fly as a model organism to work with mouse models and human samples in the context of autoimmune diseases. It was a fascinating challenge to apply and to develop my ideas from the fly to the humans, which I am sure that it would have been impossible to do in the academia. Being able to research in the model of investigation I have always wanted and becoming a group leader of my own research team, it is an opportunity that can only be given by BioMed X Institute.”
BioMed X: “What are in your opinion the key steps for a young Ph.D.?”
MR: “The Ph.D. is a very important stage in one’s scientific career. Young researchers must be motivated, committed, and work hard, focusing on the research and understanding to the detail every technique and concept they perform. While being a postdoctoral researcher, young scientists become more independent, and it is time to start thinking about what is going to be the next step in their professional life. Industry or academia? Both options have positive sides. Having an international experience is very rewarding, not only in a personal way but as well on a scientific level. Although for me, the two most important things that a scientist should never stop to do is to keep up to date with the science, to read papers is the most basic foundation, and to create a good and solid network all along your career. The enthusiasm and the willingness to learn must be present in every phase of a researcher.”
BioMed X: “Why did you apply for a position at BioMed X?”
MR: “The first thing that got my attention was the selection process, but especially the fact that BioMed X works at the interface between academia and industry. I could keep performing basic research with many parameters of the industry, which in my opinion are more effective than the academia ones. At BioMed X institute, the scientists can benefit from the international atmosphere and the kind of research they could have in academia, but the milestones, deadlines, and objectives are determined using industry parameters. This allows the researchers to experience if they want to go to academia or to change their paths to the industry. This is unique. Another thing I like about BioMed X is that, unlike the academia, I start with a predefined budget and there is no worry about the funding during the length of the project.”
BioMed X: “Do you think that research at novel innovation hubs like BioMed X Institute can compare to ‘old school’ research at the academia and the pharma industry?”
MR: “From my point of view, the answer is yes: The willingness to publish and show our research to the scientific community is always present at BioMed X. I keep making basic research in the lab, following the same protocols, or having the same discussions anyone could have in academia. At the same time, the planning and the timing of the project are like in the industry, and this is very helpful to focus on your research. In our regular joint meetings with academic and industry mentors you can feel how melting academia and industry results in a synergistic relationship making my research in the institute a unique experience.”