Already during pregnancy, environmental factors such as lifestyle, nutrition and the mother’s stress level have an impact on the developing embryo. The external factors can leave marks in the genome without changing the DNA sequence of the embryo. This “epigenetic” (=above the DNA) regulation contributes substantially to the formation of the early embryo, as it regulates, which genes are activated and which are not.
The molecular biologist Aydan Bulut-Karslioglu is specialised in precisely this phase. She links epigenetics with the relatively recent research field of metabolomics, the latter being the study of the metabolome, which embraces the entirety of metabolic processes in a cell. Metabolic impacts are also presumed to shape early embryonic development. However, the metabolic-epigenetic connections in cell differentiation through to organ development are still largely unknown.
Sofja Kovalevskaja award winner Bulut-Karslioglu will address these processes, studying in particular the pluripotent cell stage, in which cells can still develop into all types of cells. She will set up her group in the Department of Genome Regulation (head: Alexander Meissner) at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin.
Born in Turkey, Dr. Aydan Bulut-Karslioglu initially studied at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara before moving to Bilkent University to take her Master’s. She came to Germany in 2008 as a doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, where she completed her doctorate and continued her scientific work as a postdoc. From late 2013 until May 2018, Bulut-Karslioglu has been working in the United States as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, before moving on the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin in July 2018.
The Sofja Kovalevskaja Prize is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and awarded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. It is one of the most valuable academic awards in Germany with an award amount up to €1.65 million per award winner. With the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award, young academics get risk capital for innovative projects at an early stage of their careers. They may spend five years working on a research project at a university or research institute of their own choice and build up their own working groups at their host institutions.
The Sofja Kovalevskaja Awards 2018 will be presented on November 22, 2018 at an awards ceremony in Berlin.