Adnan Abouelela

PhD student at ETH Zurich

Hi there! I am a half-German, half-Egyptian biotechnologist from Dresden, a beautiful city located in the eastern part of Germany. For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the inventions of nature, and reading about the adventurous expeditions of my childhood heroes Alexander von Humboldt and Charles Darwin motivated me to become a scientist. Through meticulous comparative work, spanning species to ecosystems, they were able to describe fundamental principles at the very core of nature.

Nowadays, scientists typically don’t sail around the world anymore, and my scientific path led me to join the Quantitative Developmental Biology lab at ETH Zurich as a doctoral student. Here, I am working on computational and experimental methods investigating the axolotl, a salamander native to only a few lakes in Mexico. Urbanization has pushed axolotls to the brink of extinction, limiting access to a species with the remarkable ability to fully regenerate injured body parts, including the nervous system. When suffering from damage to the brain, stem cells give birth to new neurons, which replace the lost tissue and reconnect to the correct target regions, ultimately forming functional circuits again. Elucidating the mechanisms involved and identifying obstacles to this process in other species, including us humans, is the focal point of the research our team is conducting here.

My life outside of work is filled with literature, art, and music. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to receive extensive training in piano lessons and art classes, and although I now don’t have time to practice enough to call myself an artist, I can appreciate the virtuosity displayed at art galleries and music performances. Apart from that, I have been fencing for multiple years, which then transitioned to Standard and Latin dances as well as exercising at the gym. The dreams of going to culinary school one day did not quite harmonize with my scientific pursuits, but I am still very passionate about improving my skills as a chef.

Attending the Locarno Film Festival through the NCCR MSE is an exciting opportunity for scientists to explore and connect to the world of the audiovisual arts, and – now that you got to know me – I am looking forward to meeting you there!