March 2, 2015

Meet Matyas Ecsedi

Matyas Ecsedi worked as an MD/PhD student in Helge Grosshans’ lab studying the role of microRNA in roundworm development. During his thesis he showed that microRNAs can indeed control the development of C. elegans through regulation of a single target. This was a surprise, because it has been believed that microRNAs control biological processes by simultaneously, though modestly, repressing a large number of genes.

Q: You have been one of a few PhD students at the FMI with a medical education. What motivated you to pursue your MD/PhD studies in a Helge Grosshans’ group, a group that is interested in the most basic mechanisms of microRNA regulation, and studies it in the roundworm C. elegans?
A: My motivation was two-fold. First, I wanted to do thorough, real research. I imagined, that finding something completely new at the most basic level would give me the toughest research education possible, would teach me the most. Second, microRNAs were something really new at the time when I started my PhD, and I was just fascinated by this completely new field forming.

Q: How has being a medical doctor shaped your research focus here at the FMI?
I had perhaps a more practical or applied filter and perspective towards scientific questions, asking what might be of general scientific relevance, not just interesting in a narrower sense. For me, C. elegans was really a model to learn something about general biological questions.

Q: Where do you see the benefits of combining both medical and basic biological expertise?
A: I guess that the real benefit will be apparent when I will work somewhere between the two fields. It is nowadays a bit of a commonplace, but I believe in the concept of translational research: Solving practical problems for clinical benefit by applying knowledge gained through basic research. For this approach, one has to really know both worlds. It is not only about actual knowledge and expertise, but also about a lot of other things, like specific language, ways of thinking and realistic goals.

Q: Soon, in the meantime you have finished your PhD thesis here at the FMI and have returned to the hospital for your residency. What have you taken with you from the FMI and how do you think will this influence your work in the future?
A: In addition to the obvious research expertise that comes along with a PhD, I think the last four years also had a huge influence on me at a personal level. Driving a project forward, as I did, certainly improved some of my skills that are highly transferable. Critical thinking, prioritizing tasks, taking independent decisions, convincing others about my own ideas are just some to mention.

Q: How easy will it be to combine your clinical with research activities?
A: I am often asking this myself. It is a challenge to continue in both fields, it needs perhaps double efforts. What with my work-life balance, the competition, funding of research activities? But in the end, these are the same problems that a graduating PhD student or a postdoc is facing.

Original publication
» Ecsedi M, Rausch M, Grosshans H. (2015) The let-7 microRNA directs vulval development through a single target. Dev Cell 32:335-44

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