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Dr. Matthias Theuser, Research Scientist
Please shortly describe your current profession. What does your typical day at work look like?
I am part of the department of Immuno-Biochemical research at EUROIMMUN, one of the leading companies in the field of medical diagnostics. We sell products to clinics and hospitals worldwide in order to diagnose autoimmune diseases, infections or allergies. My responsibility in this company is to produce antibody conjugates used in immunological assays such as Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay or Chemiluminescence Immunoassay. These antibody conjugates are typically applied for the detection of human antibodies from a patient’s blood sample, the latter associated with a particular disease.
Since I am a young professional in my field, I still spend approximately one third of the day in the lab, however most of the bench work is done by my lab technicians. Typically, I spend the rest of the day in meetings or in front of the computer analyzing and planning experiments, preparing presentations and communicating with colleagues from other departments and collaborators within our international network.
What was your motivation for studying Biochemistry?
I developed an interest in Biochemistry early on during school where I took my major subjects in Biology and Chemistry. I always liked the idea of drawing conclusions based on experiments. Nowadays, I feel that my initial motivation is confirmed: It is such a creative and fun process to come up with new ideas and experiments (even if the experiments don’t work in the end for some reason)!
When and how did you choose your current profession? Did you realize your plans from the time of your studies?
No, I did not realize my plans from the time of my studies. My decision to work with antibodies in an industrial context was only formed in a late stage of my doctoral project. Since my doctoral project in the field of Structural Biochemistry was strongly based on protein techniques and I enjoyed this kind of daily lab work, I knew that I wanted to continue producing, purifying and characterizing biomolecules. One of the main reasons to switch to an industrial context, however, was to work on a product which might help patients in a relatively short-term instead of working in basic research which may or may not help people most likely in the long-term. Other reasons included a permanent contract, a good salary and regular working hours.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing for your work that you learned during your studies? What do you still profit from?
In the courses and internships which I took during my studies, I learned to critically reflect my scientific data and I practiced presenting the results in a structured and clear manner. Moreover, I got in touch with a variety of different biochemical working techniques. Although it is not possible to become an expert in all of these techniques during the studies, it is still valuable to know which options there are to tackle a specific scientific problem and to know that there is always a person to help you with a new technique.
Which additional qualifications should one gain as a student that are crucial or useful for your current profession?
It was helpful to supervise other students during my studies (Student Tutor) and during my doctoral project later-on. In my current profession, I constantly have to answer scientific questions from my lab technicians, explain the planned experiments and present my data to other scientists. Moreover, it was helpful to spend some time abroad to improve my English skills and to show some mobility.
Is there anything from the Master’s program that evokes especially strong memories?
I much appreciated the freedom to form my own professional profile during the later courses of the studies. I liked the idea to independently organize internships in working groups worldwide. Therefore, the Biochemistry program at FU Berlin was well adaptable to my personal interests.
What advice would you give Master students who would like to pursue a similar career?
If you would like to pursue a similar profession, you should try to focus your courses and internships on Protein Biochemistry on the one hand and Immunology on the other hand. I took lectures and courses at the Robert-Koch-Institut in Berlin to improve my knowledge of Immunology and I worked as a tutor in the practical course "Proteins" at FUB during my studies which helped me to practice protein working techniques and which had a strong influence on my decision to continue my doctoral project in the field of Protein Biochemistry later on.