America and Canada can trust each other
First successes on the surfboard
DFG: What is your everyday life in Los Angeles like?
SKG: I work with cell cultures and cell cultures want to stay supplied. So they dictate the cornerstones of my everyday life and, because cell cultures don't know weekends, also my Sundays. We didn't get to LA until August, in the middle of the lockdown. So I have hardly noticed normal life in the laboratory, but I really appreciate the advice of my research group leader and my colleagues. Yes, almost all of them are women and that is a special and, in my opinion, very productive and inspiring atmosphere. There is also something of a kind of optimistic mood here, which seems to be typical in California. At USC, we have already achieved success in the treatment of cystic fibrosis with techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9 and hope to be successful in many areas of the treatment of diseased lungs in the future, not just with LAM.
DFG: If you want to take a look into your personal future, what will you do after you return to Germany?
SKG: First of all, the habilitation.
DFG: Really? There are now numerous and very attractive alternative qualification paths for a professorship.
SKG: That may be, but have you ever worked as a doctor in a hospital? I can hang as many stethoscopes around my neck as I want, I still hear the question: "Where's the doctor?" and it says "Emergency Doctor" in bold, and still the first thing to look at was the colleague (paramedic or driver). Of course, that won't change with a habilitation either, but that is still very important within the hospital. I just want to keep all doors open for myself and habilitation and research group leadership are not mutually exclusive. Above all, I also want to teach and pass on my experiences. I plan to do all of this in Frankfurt, because that's where my family lives. I have to take a closer look at the habilitation regulations to see what publications and impact are required, but I am very confident that I will be able to overcome these hurdles.
DFG: But you will still be in Los Angeles by the middle of next year. Are there things that you cannot do in Frankfurt and that you may miss?
SKG: Since last year I've been going to the beach with my surfboard on Sundays (yes, I bought one) and am learning in a very nice group, socially distanced, how to stand on such a board and get back to the beach can wear. I'm assuming that I'll get this under control in the coming months so well that I might miss it at home in Frankfurt.
DFG: But you don't go to the beach, but drive or use public transport?
SKG: Sure, we'll take the car. There is also some public transport, but I was strongly advised not to use it. I am not particularly afraid and grew up in a socially deprived area in Frankfurt, but LA is a little less trusting and I am a stranger here.
DFG: What else is advised against in Los Angeles?
SKG: To breathe in. Joking aside, the amount of air pollution here is frightening, also acute because of the many forest fires. Last autumn I was waiting for a shipment of cells on dry ice from Frankfurt and, after losing confidence, went to look for the Fed-Ex delivery van by car. Even a little further out there was a smell of soot everywhere and the animals fled from the forest into the gardens of the suburbs. But also chronically you have a huge problem here. I recently saw a forty-year-old nonsmoker's lungs waved through as "healthy" in LA. It didn't look so good, but of course you don't know whether the organ is healthy until you look at it ex situ.
DFG: Are you currently involved in research into Covid-19?
SKG: Yes, as I did in Frankfurt in the area of aftercare, which then, however, promoted me to the “National Interest Exception” category and made it extremely easy for me to enter the country in August. Overall, Covid-19 has given my research and field of interest an enormous boost in attention, but I think that the science systems in Germany and the USA are well enough not only to respond to acute needs. Yes, as a clinician I want to help patients of course, but I can do it all the more successfully the better I understand the fundamentals of their ailments. Understanding then begins above all in the Petri dish, i.e. in the laboratory, and I therefore find a corresponding freedom from direct patient care very desirable. But, as I said, I don't want to complain, we don't even have to go without shoes in summer. But when I see on the one hand how the hospitals are toiled and on the other hand the politicians are considering how the aviation industry can get through the Covid pandemic, I would want to add a pilot training course, simply because of the appreciation.
DFG: You don't need that, the DFG values you very much, even without a flight license. Thank you very much for the entertaining conversation. Then we wish you a quick stand on the surfboard and, on the other hand, of course, good luck with your professional projects and we wish everyone the breakthroughs in the treatment of lung diseases that you are striving for.
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