Internationally renowned researcher named Chair in Cell Biology of Membrane Proteins

Professor Dirk-Peter Herten

Professor Dirk-Peter Herten has moved from Heidelberg to Birmingham to join The Centre of Membrane Proteins and Receptors (COMPARE). Professor Herten's interdisciplinary research spans from microscopy techniques over switchable fluorescent probes to biological applications, and he will be working jointly with the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and the School of Chemistry.  

What attracted you to the University of Birmingham?

When I visited the University and COMPARE for the first time, I immediately had the impression of a lively, open and very interactive research community attracting me from the beginning. The research community seemed to be highly interested in my work, offering ideas and possibilities for future collaborations. I really like the idea that the impact of our research can become more than just the sum of our individual contributions by teaming up and openly sharing knowledge, experiences and ideas.

Scientifically, I became interested in the University because there is currently a strong move to form an interdisciplinary research focus on advanced microscopy techniques embracing fellow researchers from the medical department, the departments of biology and chemistry initiated by COMPARE. COMPARE and the University has given me the opportunity to establish my scientific home by continuing my research on quantitative microscopy and novel fluorescent probes in a very lively and open research community within COMPARE and across the University's campus. 

What will you bring to your role as Chair for COMPARE?

As a member of COMPARE I will team up with my fellow researchers in Birmingham and Nottingham to bring forward cutting edge research projects by combining my expertise in single-molecule spectroscopy and probe development with existing expertise in biomedicine, biology and chemistry on campus.

I also regard the supervision and education of PhD students as one of the most important parts of my work here as they will become the next generation shaping the future of our societies. Therefore, I will have to visit conferences and other labs abroad to attract the most brilliant students to come to Birmingham, to share our research internationally and to foster international collaborations. And likewise, I will send out students of my lab to conferences, partners, and collaborators around the world to offer the opportunity of collecting experiences in countries abroad and helping the students to plan their own career.

Most of all, I’m very much looking forward to exploring and enjoying scientific research together with my fellow colleagues here in Birmingham. 

What are you hoping to accomplish while at Birmingham?

First of all, I hope to transfer the current working atmosphere in my lab from Heidelberg to Birmingham, where postdocs and students support and encourage each other to venture great scientific ideas. Led by my visions in single-molecule spectroscopy, I hope that thereby we will be able to establish quantitative microscopy techniques for investigating cellular structures in living and fixed cells together with fellow colleagues here in COMPARE and across campus. Of course, I would be more than satisfied if we could make this a major break-through in microscopy for understanding the complex mechanisms of live in the context of health and disease.

I hope that this will stimulate students joining or collaborating with my lab to develop their own visions which will drive them forward in their own career whether it’d be in industry or academia. 

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement to date?

I’m happy to say that all of my former PhD students have become successful in industry and some of them in starting their own academic career which I see as one of my major tasks. I’m also happy to see how my own ‘kids’ start out for their own lives. Scientifically, I’m happy to see how some of my ideas workout successfully but there is still ample of space for more PhD students and postdocs to come with their own ideas helping this to become a major scientific break-through. 

What is your motivation for getting up in the morning?

Not being an early morning person, I first need a good cup of coffee to slowly get my thoughts sorted and get me going. Also, a good dose of rock music may help significantly. The best kick-start is, however, if had seen exciting experimental data in the previous days knowing about more exciting experiments to come which I can then discuss and explore further together with the people in my lab. There is almost nothing more pleasing then to see how ideas develop into real suitable and robust methods and knowledge. Conferences with exciting work presented by fellow researchers can be similarly motivating as I always love to hear about new things going on and I’m always enjoying a stimulating discussion with some other ‘nerd’.

Find out more