Meet the Scientist - Mona Mathews (Life & Brain)
Mona Mathews, Dr.rer.nat.
LIFE & BRAIN GmbH
Can you explain your research within PHAGO in 2 sentences?
I am involved in optimizing and validating stem-cell-derived models of immune cells from patients with dementia. I believe that a robust and reliable model system is critical to obtain dependable data for studying dementia.
What do your friends and family think what you are doing in the lab?
My family always ask if my work is like they see on TV shows such as Dr. House or Bones! My friends (most of whom have also studied STEM) have a better idea of what I am doing, but they often ask about the ethical standpoints of stem cell research. We’ve had some passionate conversations about society, science and ethics.
What are you really doing? (What’s your favourite task to do in the lab?)
My favourite thing to do in the lab is to invent new methods or techniques that help optimize my standard protocols. I love using knowledge and material from other sciences such as Bioengineering, Chemistry to improve my own Biological research techniques.
Why are you interested in Alzheimer’s Disease?
I find the complexity of dementia in general, and Alzheimer’s in particular, extremely intriguing! While I am more involved in basic research and not clinical research, I still hope that any information I can contribute towards this field will be useful in benefiting those affected by this disease.
What is the major challenge in Alzheimer research for you?
There is a huge community of scientists that continuously generate some pretty amazing data that help us understand the disease better every day! Honestly, I find it overwhelming to keep up with this influx of information and that’s why I am very excited about new initiatives from different groups to co-ordinate and stream-line the data generated (for example Neuronet from Innovative medicines initiative).
Trem2 or CD33?
CD33! I spent my entire PhD thesis on studying CD33 and its pathway. I think it’s safe to say that I will always have a preference to hear about the new data generated on CD33 – out of habit but also scientific passion!
Coffee or Tea?
Tea! Especially some delicious peppermint tea always helps calm me down on a stressful day.
Why does your research matter to the average citizen/man on the street?
Every bit of data helps complete the entire story of understanding how to deal with and hopefully, eventually how to prevent or cure specific diseases.
The must-follow science twitter account?
@sciencegoddess and @Jule_Fischer_BN
Inspiring women scientists!
The must-read article on Alzheimer research?
https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(15)00127-0?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0092867415001270%3Fshowall%3DtruePersonally, I love the paper from the group of Knut Biber published in Scientific reports in 2015 about the development of plaques in an animal model. This is because reading that paper gave me an idea for my PhD thesis project that I am quite proud of!
"Forebrain microglia from wild-type but not adult 5xFAD mice prevent amyloid-β plaque formation in organotypic hippocampal slice cultures."
(Sci Rep. 2015 Sep 29;5:14624)
What else do you like to read (except research articles)?
Autobiographies/Biographies of famous politicians and famous scientists
And my go-to-book that I find myself re-reading every few years is “The life of Pi” by Yann Martel.
Your most surprising research finding?
In my experience, I am always surprised to see how much we can learn from simplistic models in the lab. In a previous research project, I looked at the ability of human cells to express non-human sugars and was pleasantly surprised to find that my most simple treatment worked the best, while my more complicated treatments gave me confusing and complicated results.
What is your personal highlight in PHAGO up to now?
The transparency and cooperation. My colleagues in other research groups have also commented (sometimes enviously!) on the good interaction of the partners within PHAGO.
What’s your favourite thing to do outside the lab?
Travelling! My husband and I are on a quest to visit all the new 7 wonders of the world. So far, I have seen 3 and my husband has seen 4. We will soon be on our way to the next one, the tickets are booked for Petra, Jordan!
Best recent TV series/movie/novel depicting scientists?
Well the following series is not about scientists but about nature. Although I am not answering this question accurately, I can’t stop myself from recommending Planet Earth narrated by Sir David Attenborough. I’m currently on the second part of the series and find it absolutely amazing!