Lisa Riedmayr, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, is taking part in Soapbox Science Munich on 7th July with the talk: “Von der Mutation zur Behandlung – Gentherapie zur Heilung vererbter Blindheit; From mutation to treatment – Gene therapy as a cure for inherited blindness”
SS: Why did you choose a scientific career?
LR: I actually got into science quite late. I started studying Biology, because I wanted to become a specialized journalist. During my undergrad studies, I was fascinated by all these tiny molecular processes, all working in a coordinated system and making up a functioning human body. But I was especially amazed by translational research – by people using all this information to reveal pathological mechanisms and develop new therapies for to date untreatable diseases. That was what I wanted to do with my life.
SS: How did you get your current position?
LR: After my Bachelor in Biology I applied for the “Graduate School for Systemic Neurosciences” and entered the Fast-track program to be able to start my PhD right away. After completing the preparatory year, I looked for a PhD position in the field of translational research and applied for my current position at the Department of Pharmacy.
SS: What do you do in your everyday work life?
LR: I am investigating mutations, which cause retinal diseases like retinitis pigmentosa. First, I “manufacture” genes containing mutations that cause the disease. Then I try to detect the disease mechanism by investigating the effect of the mutations in cells in a petri dish. When I finally now what I am dealing with, I try to prevent the disease mechanism from taking place. I do so by using already established treatment strategies, but also by developing new ones for a more efficient or less invasive therapy.
SS: What is the most exciting aspect of your research?
LR: The most exciting aspect is that our research could eventually help people. One day, a drug for patients going blind might be developed on the basis of our research. This is pretty exciting. When I feel like I am losing my motivation, I think about that.
SS: What challenges do you encounter in science?
LR: One of the biggest challenges I encounter in science is failed communication. It starts with incomplete communication of data within the scientific community. The reasons for that are quite diverse ranging from limited numbers of words you are allowed to use when describing a method in a journal to no one being interested in publishing your “negative data”. But failed communication also expands to a non-scientific audience. Many scientists do not bother communicating their research to non-scientists as well, which is leading to misperception in the public about important topics like vaccination or climate change.
SS: What are your most promising findings in the field?
LR: Well, I just started my scientific career, so I am still trying to make a significant contribution to the field. But we are developing some cool methods in the field of gene therapy right now, which could enable us to prevent blindness in people with different inherited retinal diseases. Let’s hope it works out!
SS: What motivates you to give a talk in Soapbox science?
LR: I have two reasons, why I want to give a talk in Soapbox science. First, I want to communicate my research to the public wherever and whenever I can to contribute to closing the communication gap between scientists and non-scientists. Second, I want to motivate young women to start a scientific career as well. We don’t have a lot of female role models in science and I really think we need more of them.
SS: Do you have a few words to inspire other female scientists? What can we do to attract more women to STEM fields?
LR: We can show the world that women working in the STEM fields are just as qualified as men and try to motivate young women to follow our lead. All of us can try to be role models ourselves. So let’s show them how it’s done, girls!