#TalesofJoyinResearch 9- Tale of coloured beating hearts- Elisabeth Kugler

Elisabeth Kugler, PhD researcher from the Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease at the University of Sheffield shares her “Tales of Joy in Research”.

Working in research it can sometimes be challenging to always perform at your best and not to make your self-worth dependent on your academic achievements. But working in research also means you have the outstanding opportunity to be part of a vibrant international scientific community, live and work in different countries, learn new things every day, and, most importantly, do what you love – science.

I chose to work in research due to being fascinated by life and its biological processes.

How can a fertilized egg form a whole organism?

How does a heart know when to beat?

How do blood vessels know where to form?

In my current PhD project, I am working with an excellent team of researchers, doctors, students, and staff to study exactly these very basic processes.

In our lab we use zebrafish to learn about the mechanism of cardiovascular development and disease. Technological advances in the last decades have made it possible to create transgenic lines which, together with fluorescence microscopy, allow us to visualize tissues of interest with a very high specificity in living samples.

When I saw a fish with a green beating heart the first time through a microscope in 2009, I fell in love with science/research. Ten years later I am still in absolute awe every time I look through a microscope which allows me to observe and study the intricate processes of life.

4 day old zebrafish
Brightfield image of a 4 day old zebrafish (top panel). Vasculature visualized in the same fish using a transgenic line and fluorescence microscopy (bottom panel; transgenic line from: Chi et al. (2008) Genes & Development 22(6) 734–739)

The research experience would not be as good as it is without a great team who supports and helps each other. The scientific community is a pivotal contributing factor to any scientific breakthrough. Support, collaborations, resources, and sometimes just a coffee, can mean the world to a research project and one’s personal intrinsic drive.

Undoubtedly research also means to widen your personal horizon. I’ve studied and worked in Austria and Germany before I came to the UK, meaning I was immersed in different cultures, food and locations. This helped me develop my personality, learn invaluable life lessons, and make friends for life.

Also, with research being extremely versatile and multi-facetted, opportunities sometimes seem endless – mentoring, teaching, policy making, as well as public outreach – just to name a few – allow you to share what you know and learn what you do not know.

Personally, I believe that working in research is an incredible journey, with ups and downs, invaluable life lessons, and more opportunities than I could have ever imagined.

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