Faces of CBMR: Postdoc Greg Robert Markby

In February, Greg started a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Sakamoto Group, where his fiancé Fiona also secured a position! Read about Greg’s decision to join CBMR and what initially inspired him to pursue a career in the natural sciences.

Why did you decide to join CMBR?

A photo of Greg.

Joining the Sakamoto Group as a postdoctoral researcher was extremely attractive as it fulfilled many of the aims I had for my next position, including being in a foreign country. I think travel is a privilege afforded to the academic community and one that should be jumped at when possible, especially when it is to such a beautiful and exciting city like Copenhagen. On top of experiencing a new country, CBMR has excellent facilities and a strong financial base. I was really blown away when I toured the laboratory space and saw the equipment available. I knew this would facilitate the type of research I wanted to be involved in. In addition, the Sakomoto group is performing the type of high quality and critical research that I want to be involved in, within a field that I am passionate about.

In your view, what are some of CBMR’s unique features?

A photo of Greg standing in front of the Maersk Tower, which houses CBMR on floors 6 to 8.
Greg standing in front of the University of Copenhagen’s Maersk Tower, which houses CBMR on floors 6 to 8.

CBMR is a truly unique facility, with almost evert piece of laboratory equipment you could need – this helps to facilitate our research and makes life easier for hard-working scientists! The layout of the Center, with such a large number of metabolic researchers in one space, also allows for easy and effective collaboration between groups as well as always having an expert available if you have a question about any topic. One final unique feature is the view! Being located halfway up one of the tallest buildings in central Copenhagen makes for fantastic lunchtime viewing.

“I was really blown away when I toured the laboratory space and saw the equipment available”

Why did you get into biomedical sciences?

As a ‘wee lad’ I was inspired by the events depicted in Jurassic park to become a palaeontologist. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t spell it, I knew this is what I wanted to be! As I grew older this passion morphed into a more general urge to understand the natural world. Over time I became particularly passionate about both biology and chemistry and I settled on a biomedical science course at university, as this covered a wide breadth of topics helping to fulfil my yearning to learn. This desire to continue to study and develop brought me through a Master’s, a PhD and, finally, led me here!

What is your primary scientific question you wish to address?

As part of the Sakamoto lab group, I want to contribute to increasing the understanding of cellular metabolic homeostasis in different contexts. I hope this research can answer fundamental biological questions that eventually better humanity, whether through the development of novel pharmaceutical agents for treating metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, or a better understanding of the beneficial effects of exercise. For me, this will involve investigating the role of the cellular metabolic regulator AMPK and its associated pathways in hepatocytes before expanding into different cellular contexts. 

“I want to improve my experimental design process, foster new professional relationships and collaborations that will benefit everyone involved and be part of exciting projects that lead to fundamental changes in how we understand metabolism”

What sort of research experiences do you hope to get in my group?

Working at CBMR and in the Sakamoto lab group affords many opportunities to experience new things and develop as a researcher. I would like to develop my skills in bioinformatics (specifically ’omic’ style analysis) as I envisage this being a large part of future research directives and a fundamental understanding would be beneficial. I would also like to gain experience in in vivo mouse model phenotyping and analysis as I feel this is an area I have not had a large amount of exposure too. Beyond technical skills, I want to improve my experimental design process, foster new professional relationships and collaborations that will benefit everyone involved and be part of exciting projects that lead to fundamental changes in how we understand metabolism. Through this, I would like to cultivate my own research questions and style before progressing to becoming an independent researcher.  

What do you want to get out of this globally-challenging period?

A photo of Greg working from home.
Greg has had to work from home, like so many others, these past months.

During this strange and different lockdown, it has been difficult not to feel a bit disheartened at being knocked out of the usual routine and having to abandon carefully planned experiments. However, I have found it is important to adapt and see the positives in the situation. It has given me ample time to get more up to date with the literature in the field, which I needed to do given my recent change in research focus. This has become so extensive that I am now working on a short review article so that I have a substantive outcome from all this work. Also I have been setting aside some time to learn some new skills. This includes beginning to learn how to use R and how to script, something that was completely new to me just a few weeks ago. I am also putting efforts into improving my Danish with Duolingo. This is still in its infancy but I can tell you, ‘Jeg spiser et æble’ for my breakfast as I write now. Outside of these mental challenges, I have also been exploring the local area with my fiancée during our daily exercise runs and coming up with innovative indoor workout routines for us both to enjoy, although she does not agree with the enjoyment part! 

Do you have a final message for students/postdocs considering an opportunity in Copenhagen or CBMR?

A photo of Greg drinking a beer by Copenhagen's inner city lakes.
Drinking a beer by Copenhagen’s inner city lakes.

If you have the opportunity to join CBMR, I cannot recommend it highly enough. The Center’s culture is friendly and collaborative, and living in Copenhagen is incredible too, with a lot to offer. It’s clean, there are plenty of green spaces, and there is depth of cultural offerings, from its architecture, to the innumerable museums, art galleries and theatres and the huge number of shops, cafes, and places to eat. If you are considering a move, one major lifestyle change you will have to make is that you can bicycle everywhere.

Find out more about the Sakamoto Group on the CBMR website or follow the lab on Twitter – @LabSakamoto

Published by

CBMR Communications

Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research (CBMR)

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