Member Spotlight

Julia Katharina Panzer, PhD

September 14, 2022

Dr. Julia Panzer is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in the laboratory of Dr. Alejandro Caicedo. She initially trained as a food chemist and completed her PhD in Human Biology at the Technical University Dresden with Dr. Stephan Speierin Germany. During her doctoral studies she established and implemented the human slice platform to study islets in their native environment. As a postdoctoral fellow, she is using the tissue slices to investigate islet cell function and interaction with their microenvironment. Julia recently obtained a three-year ADA postdoctoral fellowship.

Which research areas are you focusing on in your postdoctoral program? 
My research focus is to study alpha cell dysfunction during type 1 diabetes. The alpha cell within the pancreatic islet is important to counteract life threatening hypoglycemia. My goal is to understand the role of paracrine signaling in the alpha cell in the steady state and how beta cell loss (and thus paracrine input to the alpha cell) leads to loss of glycemic control. Specifically, I am interested in whether alpha cell function can be rescued if paracrine signaling pathways are restored pharmacologically which can be targeted in a clinical setting.

Moreover, I am contributing to study the interactions between different cell types within the pancreatic islet ecosystem in the first decade of life. This project is a collaborative effort between multiple universities combining functional recordings of endocrine, vascular, and immune cells in living human pancreas tissue slices with anatomical studies of islet cytoarchitecture and single cell RNA-sequencing at different stages of postnatal life. 

What is the most rewarding aspect of the program?
The most rewarding aspect to me is to fulfill my passion in science and to potentially make an impact in the field by contributing to the development of potential treatment options.

What has been the most challenging aspect? What do you wish you knew before beginning the program?
Finding your own niche within the research field, publishing your results, and moving towards an independent scientist career are the most challenging aspects to me. 

Do you have advice for others starting a postdoctoral fellowship?
Find a position where you can work on science that is close to your heart. If you like what you are doing you will get through all challenges on your way. 

How do you find work/life balance in your program?
Balancing a healthy work/life balance can be difficult sometimes. Therefore, it is extremely important to select the right lab and environment for you. I am very fortunate to be in a wonderful lab where I can pursue my passion and am surrounded by friends. If you love what you do you never actually work!

What is something Endocrine Society can do to support postdoctoral fellows?
Provide support for funding, writing and time management through workshops. Also get togethers specifically for postdoc during meetings or short workshops a day in advance of meetings are wonderful opportunities to connect and learn.

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