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Jun.-Prof. Dr Julia Bandow

Julia Bandow has been conducting research and teaching at RUB since 2008. Her field of expertise is microbial antibiotics research.

Guiding principle: Amazement is the first step toward insight. Louis Pasteur (French biologist and chemist, 1822-95)

Julia Bandow

Interview with Julia Bandow

You are a Juniorprofessor at the Fakultät of Biology and Biotechnology. What does your work involve?

I’m involved with antibiotics research. I’m searching for new strategies to fight multi-resistant bacteria, in the hope that we’ll also be equipped to deal with such pathogens in hospitals in the future.

What in particular fascinates you about your field of research?

There are two things I find really exciting: one is that you have to develop a great physiological understanding in order to understand how cells work. Only in this way can you develop strategies to attack the bacterial cells selectively, without attacking human cells. The other thing: antibiotics research requires a very collaborative way of working. A single team isn’t capable of developing a particular drug. You have to consider many different issues – such as pharmacology and toxicology, which my team isn’t qualified to do. I find working with colleagues from other disciplines extremely enjoyable.

Were you already planning an academic career while you were studying?

I was very open to it. I knew that I wanted to do research. But it didn’t really matter to me if it was specifically in an academic setting. While I was preparing my doctoral thesis, I met a scientist at a conference. She was presenting her work in the field of antibiotics research and I asked her for a postdoc position. It turned out that she was working for a large pharmaceuticals company that didn’t have any postdoc positions but only – as she said – “real jobs”. And that’s how I initially landed in the pharmaceuticals industry for six years.

What was your plan B? What would you have enjoyed doing professionally if you had not become a scientist?

I didn’t really have a plan B. I have many other interests, and if one day there’s nowhere for me to go within research, maybe I’ll become a beekeeper.

You spent a few years in the USA doing non-academic research. Why did you decide to resume your academic career in Germany?

I was very flexible in this regard. My initial aim was to find a job that allowed me to pursue more independent research. My husband (Comment: Lars Leichert, also a Juniorprofessor at RUB) and I were both looking for suitable jobs, including, for example, in England and the USA. In the end, Germany and RUB were the best option for both of us.

How do you manage to balance career and family/partnership?

For one year, my husband and I were searching for an opportunity that would allow us to do research and live near each other. Generally one of us would have a job offer which was really good, and then the other would look for opportunities in the vicinity. RUB offered us both jobs which allowed very independent research. And that’s why we came here.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

I have a huge garden that I really enjoy. I could keep the beehives there, right by the house. I have chickens and a dog – hobbies that are very close to nature. I also like cycling, for example, to the university.

If you were RUB’s rector for a day, what would be the first thing you would do?

What I found really motivating at the company I worked in for a long time was the way performance was clearly rewarded. Here at the university, we already have performance-related allocation of funds in some areas, but this is just a small element of the system that I would envisage. It would make sense, for example, to allocate rooms according to performance. And not to tie funds and rooms to specific academic chairs, but to specific research teams. Instead of performance-related individual pay, you could grant concessions for specific research projects, e.g. awarding start-up funding for new exciting projects or granting a sabbatical to work on applications or to introduce new technologies into a research team.

Fast-forward 10 years into the future: what do you want to have achieved?

As a scientist I’d like to have established a nationwide, and ideally also EU-wide, network of researchers to collaboratively develop new antibiotics. I see huge problems in the future because the large pharmaceutical companies are pursuing very little antibiotics research, so it’s likely that in as little as five years there will not be enough antibiotics available for the adequate treatment of infections from resistant pathogens. It’s my aim to develop antibiotics from the initial research phase through to their application in hospitals. Here at Bochum, I envisage an efficient manageable research team, with me as a team member actively involved in research. Because that’s basically what I enjoy most.