Amgen Scholars Program

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PD Dr. Mathias V. Schmidt

Head of the Research Group "Neurobiology of Stress Resilience"


MPI of Psychiatry - Group "Neurobiology of Stress Resilience"


Max-Planck-Institute of Psychiatry
Neurobiology of Stress
Kraepelinstr. 2
D-80804 Munich

Phone: +49 (89) 30622 - 519
Fax: +49 (89) 30622 - 610


Research Focus

Project 1: Characterizing long-term outcomes of developmental stress exposure in a translational mouse model

Principal investigator: PD Dr. Mathias Schmidt

Mentor: Sowmya Narayan

Stress exposure during periods of neurodevelopment is an established risk factor for mental illness in adulthood. As stress-related pathologies like depression and anxiety are becoming increasingly prevalent in society, it is crucial to find more reliable and effective treatments for them. In this project, we focus on alterations in the adult brain and behavior due to prior exposure to stress early in life, using a mouse model to investigate changes on different levels of brain organization - such as in genetics, connectivity patterns, and overall regional activity. We highlight differences due to biological sex, to begin to understand why symptoms manifest differently in people of different sexes. Finally, we intend to compare data from our mouse model with data from human cohorts, to identify signatures conserved across species that can be studied in more depth in mice. We aim for these findings to aid in the development of new treatments and interventions for stress-related disease.

Note: day-to-day work for this project as an Amgen scholar will be more analytical than hands-on. You would mainly learn how to use machine-learning-based programs to efficiently analyze animal behavior, how to work with datasets of different modalities to make comparisons, and how to draw meaningful conclusions from data. You would still have the opportunity to learn and practice certain techniques in the lab, based on interest and capacity.

Necessary skills:
- Familiarity with coding (R, python) or motivation to learn some
- Comfort/openness to working with mice
- Basic laboratory skills like sterile technique and pipetting
- Good organization, attention to detail
- Curiosity!

Project 2: Investigation into the Role of FKBP51 in Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

Principal investigator: PD Dr. Mathias Schmidt

Mentor: Dr. Margherita Springer

Description: We are seeking a highly motivated and enthusiastic bachelor's student to assist in an exciting research project focusing on the stress-responsive molecular chaperone, FKBP51, and its implications in the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Human studies have linked elevated expression of FKBP51 to obesity and diabetes. In contrast, animal models that have reduced expression of FKBP51 do not develop the hallmark characteristics of obesity (body weight gain, adiposity, and elevated blood glucose) when exposed to a high-fat diet. This project aims to pinpoint the molecular mechanisms underlying protection against diet-induced obesity.

Project Objectives:
1. Characterization of Novel Mouse Line: The student will contribute to the comprehensive characterization of a newly developed mouse line that lacks FKBP51 specifically in the skeletal muscle and adipose tissue. This will involve closely monitoring changes in body weight, analyzing body composition using NMR, and conducting tests to assess glucose homeostasis, including glucose tolerance and insulin tolerance tests.

2. In Vitro Analysis of FKBP51 Inhibitors: The student will be involved in isolating cells from muscle tissue, culturing them, and treating them with novel inhibitors of FKBP51. This part of the project aims to evaluate the potential of these inhibitors as effective treatments for obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Required skills:
1. Familiarity with basic laboratory techniques and willingness to work with mice (1-2 days a week for 8 weeks)
2. Strong organizational skills and ability to follow experimental protocols accurately.
3. Work effectively in a team and have team spirit
4. Interest in exploring the molecular underpinnings of metabolic disorders.