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Graduate students take on The Hill

Marion Silies wins GfE thesis award

Posted by on March 31st, 2011

Every two years, the German society for developmental biology (Gesellschaft für Entwicklungsbiologie - GfE) hands out an award for the best PhD thesis of the previous two years. At their society meeting last week, this award went to Marion Silies, for her PhD thesis on glial cell migration.

I met up with Marion after her talk and asked a few questions about her PhD work in Christian Klämbt’s lab, and whether she had any tips for graduate students.

Congratulations on your award. What was your thesis about?
I worked on glial cell migration in the fly peripheral nervous system. I looked at how neurons and glial cells co-regulate their development. In a screen we found a cell cycle regulator with strong phenotypes in the migration of glial cells, but I showed that it has a post-mitotic function, so a function outside of its function in cell cycle: it controls glial cell migration from the neuron, by regulating distribution of a cell adhesion molecule.

What are you doing now? Are you still working on the nervous system?
For my PhD I studied developmental processes, but for my postdoc I moved on to understand how the nervous system functions. I’m in the lab of Tom Clandinin now, at Stanford University.

Did you have to come back to Germany just to pick up your award?
I would have loved to come just for this meeting, but I was actually in Germany anyway for another meeting, so this just fit very well.

Do you have any tips for current or new PhD students?
My tip for students about to start their PhD would be to pick something that they’re really excited about. I think this is the most important thing: A PhD takes a long time, and you put in a lot of work, so try to find something that you really like. A lot of people think that they have to be at a very prestigious university, or at a very well-known institute. I would say: go wherever you want – just find something that you really like to do, and find a nice boss.

Read more about Marion’s thesis work:
Silies M, & Klämbt C (2010). APC/C(Fzr/Cdh1)-dependent regulation of cell adhesion controls glial migration in the Drosophila PNS. Nature neuroscience, 13 (11), 1357-64 PMID: 20890296
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