Timeout for FAU Scientist Has Huge Payoff
Tanja Godenschwege, Associate Professor, Biological Sciences, FAU Jupiter, completed a sabbatical last fall that traversed five countries and served many purposes. During her time away, Godenschwege, who studies the cellular basis of neurological diseases, published two manuscripts and submitted a third, submitted two collaborative grants, attended two conferences and visited many labs and institutions. Representing and promoting FAU through talks and poster presentations she simultaneously learned new scientific techniques, reinforced established collaborations and started new ones. Through successful networking she obtained new reseach tools (e.g., new fly strains) and countless new ideas based on suggestions from interactions with scientists in Europe and the US. The sabbatical will accelerate Godenschwege’s research while increasing the likelihood of her receiving funding for research.
Commencingatthe University of York, UK, Godenschwege gave an invited lecture on her research and worked in the labs of Drs. Chris Elliot and Sean Sweeneyusing an instrument that measures the output of the jump motor neuron in the behaving fruit fly. Continuing on to Bavaria, Germany she met with Dr. Erich Buchner, her former Ph.D. advisor, at the Institute of Clinical Neurobiology, University of Wuerzburg to discuss the ongoing projects in their labs. Next, invited by Dorothee Gloy, Godenschwege visited the Bavarian Institute for Vineculture and Horticulture. This institute is attempting to culture an invasive fruit fly species (Drosophila suzukii) that has become a serious economic threat to soft summer fruits (grapes, various berries etc.) throughout Europe and the US. Godenschwege is a consultant on Drosophila husbandry for this Institute. Godenschwege, in collaboration with Frank Marí (Chemistry, FAU) recently published on the discovery of a novel conotoxin that inhibits nicotinic receptors in D. melanogaster (but not in vertebrates) and the binding site of this toxin is conserved in the pest D. suzukii. Stemming from these studies, Marí and Godenschwege submitted a grant to the National Science Foundation in November. Continuing on through Germany, Godenschwege was invited to give a lecture by Dr. Erik Storkebaum and met with numerous faculty members at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry and the University of Muenster, Germany.
Next, Godenschwege travelled to Crete, Greece to attend the European Fly Neurobiology Meeting where she presented a scientific poster and networked with the European Drosophila Research Community. Godenschwege’s last European stop was prompted by an invitation from Dr. Jan Pielage to speak at the Friedrich Mieschner Institute in Basel, Switzerland. During this stay, she visited the Pielage lab and discussed their ongoing collaboration, exchanged resources and brainstormed about future research.
Returning to the States, Godenschwege worked in the lab of Dr. Gwyneth Card at the Janelia Farm Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, VA for over a month. She received funding from the prestigious Janelia Farm Visitor Program covering her travel, housing and research costs. The Card lab routinely obtains patch clamp recordings from the giant fiber (GF) neuron as well as other neurons in the brain in the behaving fly. Godenschwege learned the preparation to obtain GF recordings, and developed a new preparation that allows obtaining patch clamp recordings from other neurons in the fly.
While at Janelia Farms, Godenschwege met with Dr. Nadine Kabbani at the George Mason University, who works on dopamine and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in vertebrates. Dr. Kabbani had contacted Godenschwege based on her recent publications to establish yet another collaboration. Before returning to Florida, Godenschwege attended the Annual Society for Neuroscience Meeting in Washington, DC, where she co-authored two posters with Marí and FAU students.
Godenschwege was hired as an Assistant Professor in FAU’s Biological Sciences Department in 2006 and promoted to Associate Professor in 2011. She has served as PI or co-PI on three NIH grants since arriving at FAU and has authored 28 peer-reviewed articles in high-impact journals.