Dennis Eckmeier

I am a neuroscientist from Germany, and currently based in Lisbon, Portugal. After more than 7 years as a postdoctoral fellow, I decided to leave the academic path. I am currently enjoying a ‘self-financed sabbatical year’ which I am using to establish myself as a Freelance Scholar and Science Advocate.

ORCID ORCID iD iconorcid.org/0000-0002-7818-8993


Background

I am a neuroethologist. In my active research years, I studied specific, naturally occurring animal behaviors and the neuronal mechanisms that control this behavior. For my doctoral thesis  I studied how animals with only limited stereo-vision are able to swiftly maneuver clustered environments. Small birds, such as a zebra finch, must be able to use other visual cues when flying withing the crown of a tree. By tracking their head movements in flight, we found that zebra finches control their gaze in a way that would facilitate the extraction of depth cues from image motion (Eckmeier et al., 2008). We followed up on this result by studying a brain area that might perform the necessary computations to turn motion information into a three dimensional perception (Eckmeier et al., 2013).

Following graduation, I moved to the USA where I worked on olfactory learning, and brain state modulation during social interaction in mice. Social animals need to interpret complex and subtle social cues to appropriately modulate their own behavior. The neuromodulator noradrenaline is necessary to form a memory for another individual. In mice, the physiological and behavioral changes associated with learning the specific smell of another mouse could be artificially induced by electrically inducing noradrenaline release in the brain. Using this technique, I studied how noradrenaline release changes response properties of neurons in the main olfactory bulb (Eckmeier & Shea, 2014).

I attempted to continue studying freely behaving animals and ‘naturally computing brains’ when I moved to Portugal, for a second postdoctoral fellowship. To study the control of limb coordination by the cerebellum, I established a setup to track the paws of a running mouse under infrared conditions, while performing electrophysiological recording and optogenetic stimulations in the deep cerebellar nuclei.

In 2017 I realized that the postdoctoral experience didn’t provide me with the personal and professional growth I was looking for, anymore. I would have needed to work under these conditions for several more years to have a chance for a successful application for a leading position in academia. So I left academia, and am now offering my skills as a freelance scholar.


Languages

  • German:
    – born and raised in Germany 1978-2011
    – conducted my undergraduate and doctoral studies at German universities
  • English:
    – grew up bilingual in early childhood
    – English lessons at school
    – received a TOEFL score of 110 out of 120 in 2009
    – read and write academic literature in English since 2005
    – lived and worked in the USA for 4.5 years (2011-2015)
    – working language at the research institute in Portugal (2015-2018)

Academic Competences

  • Scholarship
    • wrote four first author research article manuscripts, and about 10 personal funding applications in USA, Germany, Portugal, and EU
    • served as peer reviewer for established scientific journals
    • served as an administrative assistant for a successful application of a multi-lab ‘Research Group’ which was then funded by the DFG
    • I attended writing workshops for scientific publications and funding applications at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (USA) and the Champalimaud Foundation (Portugal).
  • Teaching and Supervision I tutored single students and small groups in practical courses and laboratory internships throughout college and my PhD. This includes BSc and MSc students (EU system) during their theses works. As a postdoc in CSHL, I supervised rotating graduate students, and summer students, taught methods to new lab members, and advised graduate students in research questions.

Research Skills

  • Behavioral Tracking I am experienced in offline manual and automated, machine learning based tracking methods of animal locomotion.
  • Electrophysiology I performed single channel extracellular recordings in anaesthetized and awake animals, and chronic multichannel recordings in behaving animals. I further learned in vivo loose patch electrophysiology with following neurobiotin cell fills for anatomical classification.
  • Imaging I conducted wide-field imaging of intrinsic signals, and of fluorescent calcium signals in transgenic mice.
  • Genetic Manipulations I conducted side projects using viral microinjections in the brain for cre-dependent expression of channelrhodopsin and DREADD receptors.
  • Establishing Experimental Setups – I have extensive experience in setting up behavioral and physiological experiments, since every project I worked on demanded the establishment of new methods in the according laboratories. For example, I established a setup to track locomotion in mice under infrared conditions, while recording with multi-channel electrophysiological probes, and optogenetic stimulation, while working with Megan Carey at the Champalimaud Foundation.
  • Coding – I routinely program custom systems for semi-automatic stimulation control, data acquisition and data analysis, using LabView, and Matlab, which I also use for data visualization. I am now looking into open options for Matlab, in particular ‘Python’ and ‘Julia’.

Positions

  • Aug 2015 – July 2018. Postdoctoral Researcher, Carey Lab, Champalimaud Rersearch, Lisbon, Portugal
    Study subject was the role of the deep cerebellar nuclei in locomotion with electrophysiology and optogenetics.
  • Jan 2011 – July 2015 Postdoctoral Fellow, Shea Lab, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY, USA
    I studied the role of noradrenaline in olfactory learning in mice and noradrenergic activation during courtship in male mice.

Education

  • Jan 2007 – Dec 2010 Doctoral student, Bielefeld University, GermanyThesis “Optic Flow in Behavior and Brain Function of the Zebra Finch”
    adviser: Prof. Dr. HJ Bischof; co-adviser: Prof. Dr. M Egelhaaf
  • Oct 1999 – July 2006 undergraduate studies in biology,
    degree “Diplombiologe” awarded by the University of Cologne, Germany
    Thesis “Grundlagen des Wechselrufens der Anuren.”
                  (‘Basics of alternating courtship calls in anurans’)
    adviser: Prof. Dr. W Walkowiak

Experience in Outreach and Advocacy

  • since Aug 2017: Science for Progress
    I am the founder of Science for Progress, and design, administrate, and curate
    – the website www.scienceforprogress.eu
    – the facebook site and twitter account @sciforprogress
    – the Science for Progress rotating curation account @sfprocur
    I am the host moderator and editor for
    – the Science for Societal Progress podcast
  • Feb – Apr 2017: co-organizer of the March for Science in Lisbon, Portugal
  • May 2018: Guest on the German language podcast “Psycho-Talk” on Artificial Intelligence
  • March 2017: Guest on the German language podcast “BartoCast” on Neuroscience, and Artificial Intelligence in society and Science Fiction
  • Feb 2017: guest curator on @RealSci_DE, a German language ‘rocur’ (rotating curator) twitter account, dedicated to dissemination of science to a lay audience.
  • 2016-2018 I curated the twitter account of the Champalimaud public outreach project ‘Ar – respire connosco’ (@ArBreatheWithUs).
  • Since 2012 I use twitter (@DennisEckmeier) to communicate actively with academics and lay audiences
  • At CSHL’s Demystifying Science series, I was part of the organizing group and presented two scientific talks to lay audiences.