ESR 13 – Secondment in Jena

The engineer at Jena University Hospital

My name is Tanvi Shroff and I am ESR 13, working at Fraunhofer IGB in Stuttgart in the Micro-Organo Lab. My research focuses on leveraging organ-on-chip technology to study the crosstalk between human white adipose and hepatic tissue. Through the MSCA-ITN, we have the opportunity to visit collaborating labs to learn different expertise that could further our knowledge and allow for better chip design. A planned secondment was carried out from 27 September to 30 October 2020, where I had the opportunity to experience life and research in the beautiful small city of Jena, in Eastern Germany. At the Jena University Hospital, I worked with the INSPIRE Group, headed by Dr. Alexander Mosig to test a prototype of a chip that would provide hepatocytes with a physiologically relevant gradient for metabolic zonation. I worked closely with Kehinde Aina (ESR 11) and learnt the nuances of hepatocyte culture and characterization on the organ-chip. As a chemical engineer by training, thus far, I have always worked in labs with an engineering focus and through the secondment, I had the opportunity to work in a molecular biology lab, which differed not only in the core expertise but also in lab organization.

With a population of fewer than 200,000 people, the quiet simple life in Jena was a contrast to what I am used to in Stuttgart. My commute to work took me across the river Saale and in the evenings I got to explore the historically and scientifically inclined city (to the extent that the pandemic would allow). The members of the lab were extremely supportive, friendly, and always up for scientific discussion. There was never a dull moment in the lab and I was provided with everything I needed to maximize my learning. I look forward to visiting again!