Mechanisms of Metabolic Signaling Meeting

Visitor of the Week: Jonathan Trujillo

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Meet Jonathan Trujillo of the Rudolf-Virchow Center for Experimental Biomedicine (Germany). The Colombian national is a PhD student part of the GSLS (Graduate School of Life Sciences) of the University of Würzburg and member of Dr. Grzegorz Sumara’s lab. Jonathan made the transatlantic voyage to participate in his first CSHL meeting – Mechanisms of Metabolic Signaling – where he presented a poster entitled “Protein Kinase D2 promotes intestinal fat absorption and contributes to diet induced obesity”. Jonathan’s poster presentation “went very well [with] lots of questions and suggestions. [He’s] happy to see how people liked [his] project. It provided a personal and academic boost.”

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I work in the investigation and characterization of kinases involved in the development of metabolic diseases. Most of my work focuses on kinases regulating important processes in intestinal fat absorption and adipose tissue biology.

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
Metabolic diseases are widely spread and research in that specific area is necessary in order to understand and help to improve many conditions. I find it fascinating, and at the same puzzling, how the crosstalk between organs maintains the body’s homeostasis and misregulations can significantly affect quality of life.

How did your scientific journey begin?
I studied Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Antioquia in Colombia and I started working immediately after graduation. I liked my job very much, however, I knew I wanted something more. I wanted to be directly involved in the process of making the discoveries that enabled the development of the pharmaceuticals I was producing. I moved to Germany to pursue my Master’s degree and it was then that my interest in metabolism began. Luckily after successfully defending my thesis, I was offered a PhD position in the same group – an opportunity I didn’t hesitate to take.

Was there something specific about the Mechanisms of Metabolic Signaling meeting that drew you to attend?
The CSHL meeting in Mechanisms of Metabolic Signaling is very well-known. It received very good recommendations from people I met in other conferences and even from my own boss and colleagues (who have attended before). I had someone high expectations of the meeting and in the end it is better than expected.

What is your key takeaway from the meeting?
Collaborations and maintenance of a good scientific network are of great importance if you want to make the best out of your research projects. I think it is very evident that in such a diverse field of research you need people from different backgrounds to increase the scope of your discoveries. This meeting is a great opportunity to listen and speak with speakers who would otherwise be very hard to meet. Topics involving gut microbiota, brown adipose tissue and fat mobilization are my favorite but, in reality, I have enjoyed every talk.

What did you pick up or learn something from the meeting that you plan to apply to your work?
I knew that my project was in need of microbiome analysis and I got some really good recommendations that I will pursue.

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?
I would totally recommend it. I have had a great time here. Actually, before coming I had wondered if I would feel comfortable coming alone but the social atmosphere is great and there are plenty of opportunities to socialize and talk about science or many other topics. This is a great opportunity for anyone no matter his/her scientific career stage.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
The meeting is very well planned: The days are busy but they don’t feel crowded or exhausting. Accommodation and food are great, and everything is geared to help meeting attendees be in a good mood. Of course, I would also agree with everybody else’s sentiments that the Lab’s location and surroundings are fantastic.

Thank you to Jonathan 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.

A Word From: Jared Rutter, Mitch Lazar & Susanne Mandrup

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This week, we hosted the third CSHL meeting on Mechanisms of Metabolic Signaling. We checked in with all three meeting organizers – Jared Rutter, Mitch Lazar, and Susanne Mandrup – for a casual chat about the meeting and its role in bringing together the different metabolism disciplines.

Jared: I view the Mechanisms of Metabolic Signaling meeting as being unique in the sense that it’s the one meeting, I know about, that brings together people who work on metabolism involved in different diseases and different physiological states. There are a lot of cancer metabolism meetings, diabetes meetings, and obesity meetings. This meeting brings together metabolic aspects of all of those and allows cross-fertilization across those different disciplines. 
Susanne: The different metabolic disciplines is a common denominator in the positive feedback we’ve received from the participants.  
Mitch: I’m occasionally at cancer metabolism meetings and I was thrilled that several of the leaders of the cancer metabolism field, first of all, came to this meeting because they thought it was important and second of all, were asking the difference between what happens in the organism versus in cells. This has historically been one of the big differences between organismal metabolism and cancer metabolism. 
Susanne: Also there are many great technologies now being applied across the disciplines, from in-vitro technologies to whole-organism technologies.

This meeting is still fairly new but it plays a unique role in bridging the gap between the different disciplines in the field of metabolism. It consistently attracts a great number of meeting participants who are junior scientists; with graduate students and postdocs continuing to make up 42% of the meeting. We brought up this fact during the interview and Jared shared an insightful response:

I think it’s a reflection of the fact that young people are realizing that metabolism is cool again. That it’s important again. This wasn’t always the case. I would guess that 15 years ago, metabolism meetings had a bunch of old people and no one under 60. But, I feel like now, there’s a rebirth of metabolism research and people are interested again, and that provides an opportunity to bring these people together – young and old. 

As for those curious or who were on the fence about attending this meeting, Jared shares some advice: 

Think a little bit more broadly than just in your narrow field, and realize that if you study cancer metabolism, you can learn a lot by talking with people who study metabolic physiology in diabetes or the brain or whatever. I think we often, as scientists, tend to have our own tribes of people that hang out with each other and think about things the same way. It enables innovation when we can go between tribes and learn how someone else thinks about the world.

Lastly, we inquired about the presentation awards they are handing out this year. Though they kept the award categories close to the vest during our interview, the winners were announced at last night’s banquet and we love the idea of the presentation awards.

Check out all the chats we had with other meeting organizers and course instructor. 

Visitor of the Week: Erandi Velazquez Miranda

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Meet Erandi Velazquez Miranda of the Neurobiology Institute in the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (Mexico). The first-year PhD Student is a member of the Cellular Physiology Lab in the Molecular Neurobiology Department and is on campus for the Mechanisms of Metabolic Signaling meeting where she presented a poster. Read on for more on Erandi and her take on the meeting.

What are you working on?
The role of extracellular ATP in the development and establishment of hepatic fibrosis.

What is your key takeaway from the Meeting?
There are many interesting pathways that interact in one process. Hearing distinct points of view about many of the pathways can spark an idea, a way to look at your own question from another angle.

How many CSHL meetings and/or courses have you attended? 
This is my first CSHL meeting and I have not attended any courses, but I would much like to attend to many more of either in the future. 

Was there something specific about the Mechanisms in Metabolic Signaling meeting that drew you to attend? 
We are just beginning to understand the metabolic aspect of our research, so it was an important topic to approach, and this meeting was the perfect opportunity to do so. 

If someone curious in attending this meeting asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her? 
I would tell him/her that the meeting is great, very complete and varied. The organization of the meeting is very good which makes it an immensely useful experience.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL? 
The setting is beautiful. The campus is amazing that makes your time here a really pleasant feeling.

Thank you to Erandi 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.