Researcher of the Month: Dr. Heidi Zinecker
How did you get interested in your scientific work? Although I did not experiment in my own little laboratory in the garage, biology was already one of my favourite subjects at school leading eventually to my decision to study chemistry and biochemistry.
I completed my PhD in the field of innate immunity in plants investigating early elements of plant defense such as the production of reactive oxygen species. To interrogate how the human immune system recognizes and elicits an immune response against pathogens such as viruses, bacteria or parasites is a fascinating research area. In our group we investigate the role of the NOD2 receptor for the development of Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. By means of our findings we will define novel drug targets in IBD.
Q: What are you working on now?
During the last years I have been working in the field of drug discovery developing bioassays and performing the screening of focused small molecule compound or siRNA libraries. Currently I am working on a drug screening project to identify compounds that modulate immune functions including autophagy, bacterial handling and antigen presentation which might be defective in Crohn’s disease patients.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about working in science?
I have almost always appreciated the challenging and demanding work in the lab. Here at Oxford University I very much enjoy working in such a diverse and excellent scientific environment. A big thanks to all of my colleagues!
The translational aspect of my work is an utterly rewarding and a driving aspect of doing research in the field of immunology. With our findings we hope to improve the treatment and management of a disease that affects the life and welfare of millions of people worldwide.