Casper Hempel, Assistant Professor02. July 2018
What motivated you to become a scientist?
Since being a kid, I was interested in nature and biology. I had a fascination of digging deep into various topics, learning various latin names and animal behavior and at a young age I decided to become a biologist. After finishing high school I knew that I wanted to do biomedical sciences.
How did you end up doing what you do today?
During my bachelor program I was rather demotivated by a lot of courses focusing on learning things by heart and only little focus on the practical applications. During my bachelor project I was very inspired by the possibility to design and perform my own study. After taking two years of break from the university, I started studying parasitology. I became interested in malaria and how the parasite caused BBB disruptions during cerebral malaria. I decided to do my PhD within this subject. After my PhD I wanted to do something different and started to focus my research on the endothelial glycocalyx. I received a 3-year post doc grant from Rigshospitalet (Copenhagen University Hospital) and studied glycocalyx loss in experimental malaria infections. I realized that I was more interested in the glycocalyx and in the BBB than in malaria and thus applied for a position at Thomas Andresen’s group, which I am in now. However, shortly after starting at DTU I was awarded a post doc grant from the Danish Research Council (FSS) on glycocalyx and malaria, which I accepted. This grant runs until November 2018. Thus, now I am involved in the RIBBDD consortium and in my own clinical research on malaria-mediated glycocalyx loss in Tanzanian and Malawian children.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am involved in several projects. One project is my RIBBDD project focusing on how nanoparticles interact with the endothelial glycocalyx. I am also in the middle of finishing a paper on how to visualize the glycocalyx. In my one of my projects, a lot of small movies recorded from the buccal cavity with a special camera allows one to see movements of erythrocytes. I am now analyzing the flow patterns, since this can be used as an indirect measure of glycocalyx thickness.
What do you think the most exciting thing about being a scientist is?
Hard to choose only one... I like to formulate hypotheses and see how data materialize into a manuscript. I also really like to collaborate with scientists from different fields than my own; this is one of the reasons for why I find the research environment at DTU Nanotech particularly inspiring. I think that we can obtain much more if we do cross-disciplinary science.
What do you do when you are not working?
I have a lovely family (wife plus two daughters aged 5 and 6) with whom I spend most of my spare time. When I have additional time, I really like to go bouldering and to take a break from everything while sea kayaking.
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