In electrically excitable cells such as nerves, muscles and endocrine cells, voltage gated calcium channels regulate a variety of vital functions, including synaptic transmission, sensory processes such as hearing and vision, muscle contractions and the release of hormones. Dysfunctions of these cell membrane proteins underlie many pathological conditions such as autism, Parkinson's, diabetes mellitus, retinal dysfunctions, hearing loss, and muscle weakness. The Innsbruck calcium channel research cluster composed of 11 research groups based at both Innsbruck universities has made critical progress in understanding how different calcium channels work, how they regulate cellular functions in health and disease, and what their pharmacological potential is. 7 of the research groups were recently funded by the FWF doc.funds program and aim to tackle within the International CavX PhD program a whole new array of questions.
Each participating research group contributes to the network with its own expertise and methodologies. However, facilitated by their numerous collaborations within the CavX network, each group has access to the collective knowhow and the most state-of-the-art scientific methods and facilities available at both Innsbruck universities.
“Most importantly, this research expertise and these methods are made available to the young scientists to develop their own careers. This FWF funded PhD program besides promoting collaboration and research is a critical teaching platform. In the first funding period the program trained over 30 doctoral students, and we aim to increase this number in the following years.”
Petronel Tuluc, program coordinator
New generation takes the helm
Three of the research groups previously involved in the doctoral program have now joined forces with four new groups to continue the successful work. Currently, eight PhD positions have been advertised and await the applications from promising candidates. The interested young scientist can choose projects offered by the research groups of Marta Campiglio or Christian Vogl from the Medical University of Innsbruck and Monica L. Fernández-Quintero, Alexandra Koschak, Dirk Meyer, Nadine Ortner or Petronel Tuluc from the University of Innsbruck.
"I think our research network is an amazing opportunity for any PhD student candidate. I don't know of any other place in the world where so many research teams collaborate so intensively and investigate in such a focused but complementary way the many different aspects of calcium channels. Every day we learn something new and we take it one step further. For me, this is a lot of fun!"
International Conference in Tyrol
The Innsbruck calcium channel researchers periodically organize and invite ion channel researchers from around the world to the European Calcium Channel Conference. For four days Tyrol becomes the most important ion channel research center in the world. Last year, almost 200 scientists from all over the world presented and debated their latest findings. “This is the environment where our PhD students present their work and receive critical feedback from their international peers. This is also how Austrian research and the Innsbruck Universities maintain their visibility on the international stage” says Petronel Tuluc.