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Silke Hauf

Silke Hauf, professor at Virginia Tech, was a PhD student at the IMP from 1999 to 2003. Her years in Jan-Michael Peters' lab are still a basis for nostalgic feelings, despite - or because of - an intense atmosphere and lots of hard work.

I joined the IMP right after my graduation from Medical School in Germany. The year before I had done a clinical internship at Harvard Medical School. A friend of mine was working at Harvard's Department of Cell Biology at the same time and always notified me when there was an exciting research seminar scheduled. So whenever I could take off from the hospital I attended these seminars. The speakers usually were excellent and I became fascinated by research and in particular cell cycle research.

Back in Germany, I was trying to find a position where I could combine research with clinical work. In one of my internet searches for suitable institutes, the IMP popped up. I was extremely impressed by the quality of research being done there and also by the professionalism of the internet presentation. Thus, although there was no opportunity for clinical training and despite the fact that I was almost certain that my application would be rejected, I decided to apply to Jan's group for a post-doc position. To my great joy, Jan invited me for an interview and eventually offered me a position in his group. I had other offers from institutes in Germany, but whatever I had found attractive about these places completely paled in comparison to the IMP.

I was impressed by many things: foremost, the excellent research being done at the IMP. This was a place where people not only read Nature and Cell papers, but actually produced them! Secondly, there were these impressive facilities - with everything from the storage to the biooptics facility well organized. And then there was the 'spirit' that prevailed. People really seemed to be enthusiastic about their work.

I got the first glimpse on this spirit on the day of my interview with Jan. It happened to be a bank holiday, but at the IMP many people were around and busy with experiments. I vividly remember that we were sitting in the cafeteria, when somebody from Kim's lab stormed in, waving a Western blot, and trying to find somebody to discuss with. I simply loved the atmosphere.

It was fantastic to be at the IMP. The IMP in fact continues to be the benchmark against which I measure all other institutes.

Silke Hauf

What's really special about the IMP is not only the generous funding or the excellent facilities - it's this spirit. I like working at an institution where people are so motivated and ambitious that they work nights and week-ends - and are even ambitious about being the fastest on the slopes at the institute skiing trip. I remember a fire alarm, literally in the middle of the night, when more than a handful of people emerged from the different labs and showed up in the lobby.

I also loved that you could always find somebody to discuss with. The cafeteria was THE central place for this. One went for a coffee - or for a beer at night - and could share the joy or frustration that the recent experiments had caused. In addition, Jan was a great boss, who provided enough guidance and enough freedom. Now that I try to direct a research group myself, I often think about his remarkable ability of guiding people without actually making them feel being guided.

So, in brief, it was fantastic to have been at the IMP. Every time I entered the building I was a little proud of working at this place, and the IMP in fact continues to be the benchmark against which I measure all other institutes.

By Silke Hauf, first published in 2008