Centre for Biological Signalling Studies

New Professorship for Molecular Imaging

BIOSS welcomes Jun. Prof. Max Ulbrich

BIOSS has been successfully filling its new professorship for Molecular Imaging: Max Ulbrich arrived from California in the beginning of January 2010 and has since started his research in his new lab in the ZBSA building. He obtained his doctorate degree under Peter Fromherz (TU München and MPI Biochemistry, Martinsried) and worked as a postdoc in the laboratory of Ehud Isacoff at the University of California in Berkeley for the past five years.

Maximilian Ulbrich´s research interests are the determinants and dynamics which underlie the assembly of membrane protein complexes. By looking at the behaviour and interactions of single fluorescently labelled molecules, variations in the properties of protein subpopulations can be observed which are not visible in classical ensemble measurements. In order to observe these properties on a single molecule level with the highest possible sensitivity, Max Ulbrich develops and applies novel fluorescence techniques and state-of-the-art microscopy equipment.

In his new lab, Maximilian Ulbrich plans to study the assembly of synaptic protein complexes and the mechanics of GPCR signalling events by using Xenopus laevis oocytes, mammalian cell lines and hippocampal neuron cultures as expression systems.

What attracted you to Freiburg?
The Cluster of Excellence BIOSS offers very good research conditions. In particular, they introduced the tenure-track model for the new junior professorships, which, unfortunately, is not very popular yet in Germany. This offers me the possibility of getting a permanent position after an evaluation period of 5 years, so I won´t need to change to another city again.

Was it difficult to explain to your colleagues in California where you were going?
A large fraction of the scientists in the lab in Berkeley were European postdocs from France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland or Germany. Of course they know Freiburg, or at least they know how it looks around here from travelling through Europe. For many American colleagues, it is more difficult to imagine what certain places in Europe are like because they have not been here at all or only for a conference. The usual questions then are: "Is it close to home?" and "Is it close to Berlin?"

Five years away from home is a long time. What do you miss?
The food in Berkeley and in the Bay Area is very diverse and international. And, although hard to believe for most Germans, the variety of excellent beers from the Californian microbreweries is impossible to find in Germany. But not only in terms of food is the openness of Americans for the unknown impressive. As a foreigner it is much easier to get along in the US than here.