Visitor of the Week: Koen Schipper


Meet Koen Schipper of the Netherlands Cancer Institute. A PhD student in a group led by Jos Jonkers. He is at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for his first CSHL meeting – Mechanisms & Models of Cancer – where he presented a poster titled “Actomyosin relaxation enables tumor formation upon loss of E-cadherin expression in the mammary gland”.

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
My current research focuses on the process of tumor initiation in lobular breast cancer. We primarily use mouse models and cell culture approaches to determine the driving forces behind tumor development. 

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
I have always found the transformation of a normal cell into a tumor cell very interesting; especially since a small alteration in a single cell can have such tremendous impact on an entire organism. Mouse models are particularly suitable to study tumor development since you have the optimal environment to study the early phases of tumor initiation. 

How did your scientific journey begin? 
I did a bachelor study in bio-pharmaceutical sciences during which I discovered an interest for courses about signal transduction and how it is altered in disease. As a result, for my masters I decided to delve deeper into the signaling routes frequently deregulated in tumorigenesis and, during my research internships, I truly understood how much we still don’t know in this field and how much there is left to discover.   

Was there something specific about Mechanisms & Models of Cancer meeting that drew you to attend?
Several former lab members have been to this meeting and all of them highly recommended it as one of the best meetings they have attended; and so I had to experience it as well. The meeting also has a nice format with a number of short talks giving young scientists ample opportunities to present their work. 

What is your key takeaway from the meeting?
Discussing your research with those outside of your own field is very useful. You are able to see how they interpret your results and think about potential future directions. It can really open up new avenues for your own project. 

What did you pick up or learn from the meeting that you plan to apply to your work?  
The main thing I plan to apply to my research is to broaden how I look at the effects I see in our mouse model in human patients with germline CDH1 mutations. This way, I am able to validate our findings and identify possibilities to prevent cancer development in these families.

If someone curious in attending a future iteration of this meeting asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
Just like the people who recommended I attend, I would encourage them to come and experience this great meeting and venue for themselves. 

How many CSHL meetings have you attended?
This was my first CSH meeting but, if I get the opportunity, I will definitely attend future meeting(s) or a course. 

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
I really liked the atmosphere of the CSH campus. Compared to most institutes located in big cities, it is calm and helps you to relax and think about your research from a different perspective.

Thank you to X for being this week's featured visitor. To meet other featured scientists - and discover the wide range of science that takes part in a CSHL meeting or course - go here.

Photo: Koen Schipper