Meet Ilka Maria Axmann, Junior-Professor and Head of the Institute for Synthetic Microbiology at Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf and Coordinator of the RiboNets project funded under the FET Young Explorers scheme of the Future & Emerging Technologies (FET) programme.
Ilka Maria Axmann is Junior-Professor and Head of the Institute for Synthetic Microbiology at Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf and Coordinator of the RiboNets project funded under the FET Young Explorers scheme of the Future & Emerging Technologies (FET) programme. She shares her experience with the programme and why she encourages others to participate.
The FET Young Explorers scheme aimed at fostering the participation of young researchers in collaborative research projects targeting first-ever, exploratory, multi-disciplinary research, while empowering the next generation of European science and technology leaders through their increased leadership in ICT research.
Ilka, who are you and what is your background?
My name is Ilka Maria Axmann. I am a mother of two children, Junior-Professor and Head of the Institute for Synthetic Microbiology at Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Germany. My background is in Molecular Biology where I earned my doctoral degree at Humboldt-University Berlin, and Biotechnology, which I studied during my Diploma.
How has your project benefited from the FET Young Explorers programme?
RiboNets highly profits from the FET programme allowing for cutting edge research focusing on novel ideas which won't be funded by other programmes because of their high risk of failure. The young, international and multidisciplinary research group we were allowed to team up with for RiboNets, boosted development of new technologies, research and social skills due to the intense knowledge transfer between the project partners.
What impact does the project have on the society?
RiboNets inspires and educates researchers and students in Synthetic Biology on Ribonucleic acid (RNA), a fascinating ancient molecule of life with a plethora of functions. The toolbox developed by RiboNets provides an outstanding prerequisite for novel designs in Synthetic Biology and life sciences with potential applications in white biotechnology and medicine. For example, RNA-based antibiotics would improve human health as well as technological applications in the future.
How has participating in this programme changed your career?
Being a Coordinator of an EU FP7 framework project on Synthetic Biology was definitely a big plus for becoming appointed a Junior-Professorship. Thus, the FET programme was highly important for closing the gap between PostDoc position and Professorship and thus for taking the next step towards an academic career. Overall, RiboNets allowed me to independently expand my research focus to diverse disciplines and to cooperate internationally, which is key for establishing a researcher career.
What are your future plans after RiboNets?
I will definitely continue researching RNA. Thus, I am preparing for a follow-up project on RiboNets, in which I can profit from the knowledge, skills and experiences I gained.
Do you have any tips for other young researchers interested in FET opportunities?
Find excellent open-minded young researchers and team up for a FET programme proposal.
The RiboNets project lies at the interface of computer science and synthetic biology. The project aims at programming cellular networks and community behavior using newly engineered RNA based devices (RNAdevs) that transmit and process information within cells. In October 2016, RiboNets announced the launch of the RNAblueprint software to fairly sample nucleic acid sequences compatible with multiple structural and sequence-based constraints.