News / 19 November 2017
Harald Janovjak headshot

We would like to extend a very warm and friendly welcome to Dr Harald Janovjak, ARMI’s newest Group Leader. He is moving to Australia from Vienna, where he was an Associate Professor at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria).

Self-described as a ‘basic biology researcher with an engineering twist,’ Herald’s research focuses on tissue regeneration, adopting the biological technique of optogenetics. Here light is used to control cells in living tissue that has been genetically modified to express light-sensitive ion channels. He is seeking to understand how cells talk to each other when they are both healthy and diseased by using various manipulative and controlling techniques.

One of the techniques Harald has been using to understand the communication between cells involves re-engineering the membrane receptors of the cell, the cell’s signalling machinery. By applying this technique, he can control what happens in the cell with extreme accuracy.

His research is right on the edge of synthetic biology and physiology. Harald aims to use this knowledge to understand problems in cell tissue and animal models better. By understanding how the balance of cell death and cell growth is regulated, he hopes to apply optogenetics to control potentially fatal disorders, such as cancer (where excessive cell growth is a hallmark) and degenerative diseases (in which cell death features).

Harald eloquently expresses his move to Australia as the perfect mix for himself and his family, ‘as a young scientific professional, Australia has a strong academic atmosphere and excellent life quality, amazing nature and an impressive culture.’ He says Australia is ‘a research powerhouse. I cannot wait to become part of this vibrant academic landscape and Australia’s broader research community’. He explains that the move to Australia is one which encompasses work-life balance, saying ‘of course it is about the science and science community, but it is also one of a personal nature, my wife can now reconnect with the place she calls home.’

Harald started his science career in Basel (where he was born and raised), completing his undergraduate degree. He went on to complete an honours degree in Dresden, at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics followed by completing a PhD in Biology at the Dresden University of Technology. Post-doctoral training followed, firstly, at the Ludwig Maximillian’s University of Munich then the University of California, Berkeley.

Please make the time to introduce yourselves to Harald and make him welcome.

Dr Harald Janovjak is jointly appointed at ARMI and EMBL Australia.