Aiming to apply mathematical approaches to biological questions, I studied biophysics at Humboldt University Berlin. Soon I discovered that neurons and their biophysics are highly interesting. My first hands-on encounter with neuroscience research was during my Diploma thesis in the lab of Simon Laughlin at the University of Cambridge, where I explored the optimal number of stochastic ion channels a cell should be equipped with for an energy-efficient relay of information. For the first half of my PhD, I joined the lab of Terry Sejnowski at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla as a doctoral Sloan-Swartz Fellow. Bridging the thesis between both labs, I completed the dissertation in Berlin in the lab of Andreas Herz. In 2008 I received the Bernstein Award for Computational Neuroscience which allowed me to found my own computational neurophysiology lab at Humboldt-University Berlin. I was appointed junior professor in 2010 and received tenure in 2015. My lab investigates principles of neural computation combining a biophysical and an evolutionary perspective.
Equipped with the flexible modeling and data analysis methods of theoreticians, we are well placed to search for principles of neural computation across species and systems. My group’s research interests are driven by the question why neural systems or their parts are built in the specific way they are.
In particular, we focus on the impact of cellular properties on neural function at the level of single cells and networks. Our topics range from the influence of ion channels on the timing of sub- and suprathreshold rhythmic activity to the role of inhibition in gating cell-intrinsic signals and learning. Our goals include to better understand of how evolutionary constraints, such as limited metabolic resources and variable temperatures, shaped neural design.
We like to cooperate with both vertebrate and invertebrate experimental labs. This interdisciplinary approach helps us to sharpen our eye in the search of general principles. One central topic in the lab is the temperature dependence of neural processing, which is of relevance not only for grasshoppers and fruit flies but also mammals – in particular, when it comes to pathologies like hot water epilepsies or febrile seizures.