MDI Biological Laboratory

Meet Our Postdocs: Marko Pende, Ph.D.

Marko Pende, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral researcher in the Murawala Lab, working with regeneration in axolotls. His specific interest is in how the peripheral nervous system affects regrowing an amputated limb.

When Prayag Murawala, Ph.D., was recruited as a new faculty member to MDI Biological Laboratory in 2020, it only took a few months for colleague Marko Pende, Ph.D., to follow him to Maine as a postdoctoral researcher.

Marko and Prayag collaborated on a paper while they were both completing different stages of their education and training. “He’s a great scientist, full of ideas, very hardworking and he was at one of the best institutes in Austria,” Marko explains. “We worked well together and also became friends outside of our work.” So, when the opportunity came about to join Prayag in his new lab at MDIBL, it was an easy choice for Marko. He started his postdoctoral position here in mid-November, 2020.

Marko’s work focuses on the role of the peripheral nervous system during limb regeneration in the axolotl. Specifically, he studies the role of nerves in inducing and maintaining limb outgrowth and size control – to understand how the organism knows when to stop when the limb is the right size, and whether the location of amputation along the limb affects how it regrows. Marko is also very adept at tissue clearing, which is the use of chemical techniques that render tissue transparent, allowing for deeper insight whilst maintaining spatial resolution. Further, he has a lot of experience using custom built light-sheets microscopes. Both approaches together provide clearer, comprehensive and in-depth (and not to mention very beautiful) microscopy images.

Holding two master’s degrees, one in neuroscience and the other in immunology, from the University of Vienna, Marko completed his Dr. rer. nat (equivalent to a Ph.D., awarded by some universities in German-speaking countries to students who have studied in the fields of math or science) in biomedical engineering at the Technical University of Vienna.

A postdoctoral position, which usually ranges in length from three to five years, benefits the trainee, the research group, the institution and aids in the progression of science as a whole. Marko is in his last stage of training, refining his technical and teaching skills, developing an original area of study and working to author papers about his research – the culmination of which will be a strong foundation from which to pursue his chosen career path. Support of postdoctoral trainees like Marko is an investment in the future of science.

Supporting a postdoctoral position needs an investment of $100,000 per year, much of which must come from generous independent financial support; federal opportunities are few and often require proof of concept and data that the trainee is still working to gather. Trainees are aware of the support they gratefully receive and work hard to offer a strong return on investment. “Every dollar invested in MDI Biological Laboratory is a dollar well spent; we address fundamental biological questions regarding aging and tissue regeneration, all of which is in aid of developing therapies for better human health outcomes,” Marko explains. That reminds him of another aspect he admires about MDIBL; the willingness to share and pass on knowledge to the community, through communications, outreach and event programs.

Marko and his fellow trainees are working hard to create a future where everyone can enjoy better health as they age. If you’d like to support the next generation of science, please donate today. Thank you.