Anna Katharina Herta Hirsch, HIPS, Germany

Where and when did you obtain your PhD diploma?

2008 (ETH Zurich, Switzerland)

What was the topic of your PhD project?

Design and synthesis of inhibitors of the antimalarial target enzyme IspE (Prof. F. Diederich)

Where did you have your postdoc position?

Institut de Science et d’Ingénierie Supramoléculaires, Strasbourg, France (Prof. J.-M-Lehn)

Where do you work at the moment and what is your current position?

Head of department at Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland and full professor at Saarland University, Saarbrücken, Germany

What are your current research interests?

Anti-infective drug discovery using both established and innovative, protein-templated approaches

What do you like most in your job?

The creativity and freedom to focus on the projects that inspire me the most.

The diversity of the activities: research, teaching, project discussions with coworkers and collaboration partners, writing, presenting, attending conferences etc.

What kind of tasks your job includes?

Carry out research, teaching, project discussions with coworkers and collaboration partners, writing scientific papers and grants, presenting the results, attending conferences, serving on committees etc.

What kind of skills your job requires?

Creativity, communication skills, critical thinking, problem-solving skills, organisational skills, time-management skills

What do you consider your biggest achievement in your scientific career?

Obtaining the ERC starting grant and securing my current position

How many PhD and postdoc students do you have at the moment?

13 PhD students and 10 postdocs

Are you currently looking for a new PhD and postdoc students?

Yes always

What are the features of a successful PhD student or postdoc?

Self-motivated, creative, persistent, meticulous, interested to venture into new fields/learn new techniques

How would you describe yourself as a supervisor?

Open-minded, giving coworkers a lot of freedom do develop their own ideas, supportive, ambitious, creating and maintaining a collaborative environment and spirit in the group

What is the most embarrassing thing you did in the lab while doing experiments, e.g. explosions?

As a Master’s student, I handled 1,2-ethane-dithiol for the first time and was not aware of its smell.

Which scientist do you admire the most and why?

Marie Curie for her scientific achievements and for being an important role model as a female scientist, certainly ahead of her time.

Which paper of yours you are the proudest of and why?

First report on the synergistic combination of dynamic combinatorial chemistry and structure-based de novo design (M. Mondal et al., Angewandte Chemie, 2014)

Which field of medicinal chemistry do you consider the most promising in the future?

As an academia, I believe it is most valuable, rewarding and urgent to work in a field that is underexplored/neglected by the pharmaceutical industry such as anti-infective drug discovery.

What would you guess to be the next major breakthrough in medicinal chemistry?

1) Obtaining structures of complexes of target protein and inhibitor on a routine basis thanks to the continuous developments in structural biology, in particular electron microscopy.

2) Cell-based target validation thanks to progress in the field of chemical probe design.

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