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Meet Christopher Schliehe

1. Tell me in 5 words who is Christopher Schliehe?
Creativity, curiosity, dedication, empathy, humor.

2. What made you join CeMM?
My motivation to search for postdoc positions in Vienna was initially driven by personal reasons. One or two years before I joined CeMM, my girlfriend had started a PhD at the ETH in Zurich and later moved with her group to IMBA in Vienna. By autumn 2011 – I had just finished my PhD at the University of Konstanz in Germany – I decided to first look for postdoc positions in Vienna. Also as a second reason, I liked the idea of moving to Vienna. In the 1920s, my grandfather came from Germany to study botany in Vienna, where he met his future wife, my grandmother. She came from a small village next to Vienna. When beginning my search, Andreas Bergthaler had recently started this group at CeMM and advertised his first postdoc position. Apparently, Andreas and I had overlapping interests and the requirements for the position matched my CV in many aspects. I was encouraged to apply, also supported by my former study colleague Stefanie Sigel (now Bunk), who at that time was a postdoc in the group of Silvia Knapp at CeMM, and who highly recommended the institute. I applied, I was invited, and I was impressed. By Andreas and his future plans for the group, by the institute, by the welcoming atmosphere, and by the professionalism of how my first visit was organized. CeMM knows how to treat guests and make them feel like VIPs. I was convinced and got an offer. In spring 2012, I started with Andreas and stayed for 4 years, a time that I enjoyed very much and that is still influencing me a lot.     

3. What is it about science that interests you the most?
Scientists – obviously – enjoy different kinds of music. But if science was a music style itself, it would likely be a combination of Jazz and Classic. Unlimited freedom and improvisation meet precision and reproducibility – all on the stage of creativity and dedication. I think what I enjoy most about science is the Jazz part of it.

4. What is the best career advise you ever received, or you can give to the CeMM community?
I guess everyone – at least to some degree – hears an inner voice when approaching the next carrier step: Am I the right person to fill the position? Should I go for it? Do I actually have a chance to get the job? With regard to this somebody once said to me: “There will likely always be someone better suited for the job than you, but that person might have other plans, might have a second talent, or might just not be in the right place at the right time. Therefore – if you feel you can and want to do it – be confident and apply. Nothing to lose.”

5. Tell us what happened to you after you left CeMM?
At the end of my postdoc time at CeMM, I started to apply for junior faculty positions in a number of European countries. After two successful interview rounds, I got an Assistant Professor position in the Department of Immunology at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, around early summer 2016. I started my own research group in the field of immunology, which has grown since then to 7 group members – including me. I aim to find my own niche by combining previous experiences from my PhD time at the University of Konstanz and my postdoc at CeMM. Apart from doing research, I am also involved in teaching immunology to students of the Erasmus University. If you are interested you will find more information here.

6. What book do you have on your night table at the moment?
I feel I am mainly reading kids’ books these days – we have two daughters by now. My favorite at the moment is about a whale taking a warm, relaxing bath in a bathtub – then being bothered by more and more animals that want to join for various reasons – with the consequence that they all have to squeeze more and more until the whale gets so frustrated and annoyed that everyone is kicked out with a great splash. But there is a happy end: The whale refills the bathtub and can finally relax again. The other animals also enjoy a swim, as the whale spread so much water that the entire bathroom is under water.  

7. What is the last song you heard?
Barry McGuire singing “Eve of Destruction” – Vietnam war protest song by P.F. Sloan. Great song – and some elements could be translated to current times.

8. Any message you would like to give to the CeMMies or a former colleague?
Let’s keep in touch! It will be on us to build a strong Alumni network.

After his doctoral studies at the University of Konstanz (Germany), during which he studied cross-presentation in adaptive immunity, Christopher joined the emerging team of Andreas Bergthaler at CeMM as a postdoctoral fellow in April 2012. With Andreas, he investigated mechanisms of innate immune modulation by epigenetic modifiers, which led to the discovery of a novel circuit of Influenza virus-driven immune regulation. In summer 2016, he joined the Department of Immunology at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) as an Assistant Professor and started his own research group on antigen presentation and immune regulation.