"The most important thing is the question of scientific knowledge"

Prof. Dr. Julia von Maltzahn has been head of the new Chair of Stem Cell Biology of Aging at the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg (BTU) since April 2022. Her great commitment to research, teaching and promoting young talent, as well as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11, are the occasion to introduce the scientist.

"I was interested in why things in organisms and in nature are organized in this way and how exactly they work," says Julia von Maltzahn, looking back on the beginnings of her academic education. Consequently, she studied biology at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn from 1997. She was able to successfully continue work in the field of molecular genetics from her diploma thesis as part of her doctoral studies, which she completed in 2008. Other important positions included working as a postdoc at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada and heading an independent working group at the Leibniz Institute on Ageing in Jena for many years.
Good conditions for scientific work as well as a high development potential for new research projects and interdisciplinary collaborations motivated her to move to the BTU in Senftenberg.

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Julia von Maltzahn and her team from the Chair of Stem Cell Biology of Aging are looking in particular at the question of why skeletal muscle regenerates less well in old age. Among other things, she is investigating changes that occur in muscle stem cells with age and how these affect the formation of muscles after injury. The researchers are also interested in the changes that occur in skeletal muscle in age-associated diseases, for example in cancer-related muscle atrophy. A third focus is on rhabdomyosarcomas - soft tissue tumors that are thought to arise from muscle precursor cells.
"The aim of our research is to better understand the biological processes that play a role in muscle regeneration and how to improve regeneration in old age and in various diseases," explains the scientist.

"In my opinion, the most important thing to succeed in this field isa kind of childlike curiosity and an intrinsic motivation to want to find out why biological processes are like this, i.e. the question of scientific knowledge."

Prof. Julia von Maltzahn quickly became involved in the university community at BTU and took on responsibility - as Vice Dean for Research in the Faculty of Health Sciences since September 2022. She is involved in university self-governance committees, raises competitive third-party funding to work on further exciting research projects, establishes collaborations, funds young scientists, teaches in the Biotechnology study programmes and supervises students' theses in her working group. She is just as active in organizing scientific conferences as she is in supporting student events or supervising pupils interested in science who are getting a taste of laboratory work for the first time. She is happy to pass on her knowledge in public lectures - for example at the university's Senior Citizens' Academy or again on 4 May in the BTU program for the Potsdam Science Day.

"It's all a challenge in terms of time management, requires organizational talent, but is also a lot of fun," emphasizes the professor and stresses: "I feel like I'm in great hands at BTU, all my colleagues have welcomed me and my working group, which we have newly established here, with open arms and offered us all the support we could wish for. It's a privilege to go to work every morning and to be able to look forward to it, on the one hand to the activities and creative opportunities, but also to the colleagues from all areas of BTU with whom you work every day."

Prof. Julia von Maltzahn has the following advice for girls and women who want to study, perhaps embark on an academic career and are still unsure which direction to take:
"Do an internship in an area that interests you. Try out the study programme. But things often turn out differently than you thought, because studying opens up a whole new world. After school, I thought that I would be mapping birds on a lonely North Sea island and found it exciting - it was all I knew from school. Then the world of Molecular Biology opened up to me during my studies and now I'm using molecular biological methods to investigate regeneration processes.
As long as you enjoy it, it's the right course. If you enjoy going to seminars and afterwards think: cool, what I've learned today, and it puts a smile on your face, then it's the right thing to do. If not, then it's not. Sometimes you just have to try it out."

Prof. Dr. Julia von Maltzahn

Stem Cell Biology of Aging
T +49 (0) 03573 85-526
E Julia.vonmaltzahn@b-tu.de

Press contact

Ralf-Peter Witzmann
Kommunikation und Marketing
T +49 (0) 3573 85-283
Prof. Dr. Julia von Maltzahn. Photo: BTU. Sascha Thor