MDI Biological Laboratory

This is Why: Elisabeth Marnik, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher

  • February 26, 2020

When Elisabeth Marnik was searching for a postdoc position, an introduction to Dustin Updike, Ph.D., led her to the MDI Biological Laboratory. “Dustin is a fantastic mentor, and that is key to having a good postdoctoral training experience,” she says. “In addition, the Updike lab’s research area – germ granules and their applications to cancer and regeneration, really excited me. Combined with MDIBL’s location, which is an area I wanted to live in, made it the perfect place for me to do my postdoc.”

As a postdoctoral researcher in the Updike Lab, Elisabeth studies germ cells, which are the ultimate stem cell. Germ cells have the potential to become any type of cell that makes up an organism (skin, muscle, neuron etc). This potential is called totipotency, which literally means “ability for all things”. Specifically, Elisabeth and her colleagues study germ granules, (tiny organelles found only in germ cells) to understand how they ensure the germ cell remains totipotent until it is time to become another cell type.

Elisabeth hopes that learning how the granules affect totipotency will one day allow scientists to develop new regenerative therapies, “If we understand how germ granules regulate cell differentiation, it might be possible to reprogram a differentiated cell, such as a skin cell, into another cell type,” says Elisabeth. “This could lead to new therapeutic approaches for treating diseases such as cancer.”

“The research and education we do here is so important for future generations, and I’m glad I can be part of it.”

Elisabeth Marnik, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher

Elisabeth says that being at the MDI Biological Laboratory has given her the opportunity to not only conduct and publish really exciting research, but she’s had the chance to hone her teaching skills too. “I have enjoyed collaborating with our education department to develop new science education and outreach activities. These kinds of mentoring opportunities are instrumental in setting up a successful independent career when my postdoctoral training is over,” she says.