Karin Klauke is a PhD candidate working in the
Laboratory of Ageing Biology and Stem Cells at the European Research Institute
for the Biology of Ageing, a part of the University Medical Centre Groningen in
the Netherlands. She has been in the stem cell research field for 6 years, and
an ISEH member for 5 years. She first joined ISEH when her supervisor Gerald de
Haan suggested that she submit an abstract about her research to present at the
ISEH meeting in Athens, Greece. Klauke was selected to make a presentation at
the meeting, her first outside her laboratory.
Klauke enjoys attending the ISEH Annual Scientific
meeting for the networking opportunities they offer for young scientists to
interact with PI’s. She also values the opportunity that the ISEH meetings
present for staying up to date with new research in her field.
Klauke kindly answered some questions for ISEH.
Tell us about your graduate
education and the experience of being a graduate student.
I started University in 2001, and
studied Biology in Groningen. In the first year we had to take all kinds of
Biology courses including courses like Ecology, which did not interest me much.
After the first year we could specialize in a few fields, and I chose Molecular
and Medical Biology.
Who has most influenced you to become a scientist, and
how did they influence you?
There is no
particular person in my life that influenced me to become a scientist, although
as a child, I was always fascinated by the story of the apple that fell from
the tree that gave Isaac Newton the first clue about the existence of gravity. I
didn’t think much about ‘becoming a scientist’ until I started thinking about going to University.
In high school I always liked my science classes and did well in them.
My mother always
tells me that as a young child, I could study small objects (like insects) for
a long time. So I was just curious about everything.
How did you
find your way to the hematology and stem cells fields?
During University I enjoyed these classes the most. Lectures about stem
cells and their ability to reconstitute damaged tissue inspired me. Stem cells
are really important for life, and hold great promise for regenerative
What is the overall aim of your research?
I just finished my PhD thesis on ‘epigenetic regulation of normal and
malignant hematopoiesis.’ I will defend it on October 23.
Epigenetic mechanisms help to maintain the
characteristic gene expression profile of stem cells, or to drive changes in
gene expression that accompany the transition from hematopoietic stem cells to
terminally differentiated blood cells. Our aim is to further our
fundamental understanding of the epigenetic machinery that distinguishes
hematopoietic stem cell self-renewal divisions from differentiation divisions. I studied
Polycomb proteins that function in large Polycomb complexes, termed Polycomb
Repressive Complex 1 and 2. Polycomb complexes can be constitutionally
distinct and functionally complex, since for every core protein subunit,
different family members exist that compete for incorporation. Our most intriguing result is
that we showed that the composition of the Polycomb Repressive Complex 1
balances HSC self-renewal and differentiation (Klauke et al., Nat. Cell Biol
Tell us a little
about the subject of your presentation.
One of the most important matters in understanding
leukemic progression is to determine the nature and number of different
leukemic stem cells (LSCs) and their clonal offspring within an individual
cancer. Previously, we have shown that
the Polycomb PRC1 member Cbx7 causes a spectrum of distinct leukemic types
(immature, lymphoid or erythroid) after overexpression in bone marrow cells
(Klauke et al, Nat. Cell Biol., 2013). By implementation of
a barcoded retroviral Cbx7 expression
vector, we generated a mouse model in which Cbx7 overexpression serves as the
initial leukemic ‘hit’ and every pre-LSC is uniquely labelled.
In the presentation, I showed that the clonal
organisation of leukemia can be more complex than previously anticipated. For
example, we showed that the coexistence of different LSC clones with different
properties in one leukemia is not uncommon, and we provided direct evidence of
the quiescent nature of LSCs.
What's the biggest challenge you've ever faced in your
I am a young
researcher and I am only just starting my career. For me, the biggest challenge
is, and always will be, to balance my work and personal life. As a PhD student,
you have very busy periods, when it is often necessary to work around the
‘social’ things with my boyfriend, family and friends also gives me new energy
that I can put back into my work. So my work will also benefit when I take some
time off. But, when I have important deadlines this can be hard to remember.
What are you working on most intensely right now?
Currently, I’m mostly focusing on finishing my PhD
and preparing for the defense. After that, my goal is to get the work that I
presented at ISEH published.
In your field, what do you hope we will know in five
or 10 years that we don’t know now?
Stem cells can be modified by gene therapy for use in
regenerative medicine. However, gene transfer has to be safe. In addition, the
use of regenerative medicine relies on a proper understanding of the pathways
involved in stem cells. I hope in the next 10 years, regenerative medicine will
transition from a research promise to clinical reality.
Who is your
most influential senior investigator mentor and how did he or she help you?
That will be my boss/professor, Gerald de Haan.
His door is always open to discuss new
plans and results. He maintains an excellent balance between giving
freedom to young scientists and giving them guidance on their PhD project. He
also gives me a taste of the politics behind science every now and then, which
is important when you want to continue your career in science. You need to know
where the money is, how to get it, and whom you need to know.
What are your future
I am not certain, but I like science, helping in the lab,
and teaching. It is a good career because you are your own boss in many
respects, and usually your work schedule is pretty flexible, although in
general you have to work hard.
My next step will be to apply for my own funding and create
my own ‘scientific niche.’
What general advice
would you give a young person considering a career in science?
Be curious and work together. Scientists become scientists
because they are fundamentally curious about how things work. In science, you
are not going to be in a laboratory all by yourself with no one to talk to. Take
all opportunities to teach, speak, interact, and collaborate. Working together
makes better science.
What are the results
of a scientific career that makes it worthwhile and exciting?
The thing that I like most is that you can be
completely creative. You think of an idea, you propose a hypothesis, you design
the experiments and you analyze that data. Sometimes you’re right and sometimes
you’re wrong. Even when your hypothesis is proven wrong, you have learned a
your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory?
I really enjoyed the boat trip at the Vancouver