Joerg Nikolaus, PhD, Associate Research Scientist
My project is to characterize the role of membrane tension in fusion. For this I reconstitute SNARE proteins into giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) and measure SNARE-mediated fusion of membranes in a membrane-tension dependent manner. I also pull membrane tethers, long and thin lipid membrane tubes, from GUVs to study curvature-dependent binding of proteins to lipid membranes. Besides expressing and purifying proteins I therefore spend most of my time at our spinning disc confocal microscope equipped with micromanipulators and a microaspiration system as well as holographic optical tweezers.
I studied biophysics at the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany and did my PhD at the Leibniz Graduate School for Molecular Biophysics, Berlin with Andreas Herrmann. There I visualized the hemifusion intermediate in lipid bilayer fusion, the hemifusion diaphragm, using GUVs and transmembrane peptides. I stayed for a short post-doc in the lab of Molecular Biophysics at the Center for Infection Biology and Immunity and focused on the interaction of newly synthesized molecules or proteins with lipid model and cellular membranes.