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Jasmin Mecinovic

Jasmin Mecinovic

Why did you become a researcher? 

I was passionate about chemistry throughout my entire education. It started in the elementary school and raised in gymnasium through various national and international chemistry competitions. PhD at Oxford and postdoc at Harvard were hallmarks that sealed my career trajectory. Research has given me so many beautiful moments; excitement, discovery, team work to name a few. It is a great career, it is never boring.  


Which other career did you consider? 

Academia has always been my only wish. I was early aware of my career path, perhaps in the seventh grade of my elementary school already. As soon as chemistry was introduced in my curriculum, I knew that it would occupy my professional life. 


What occupies you at the moment? 

My group works at the interface of chemistry, biology and medicine. We are driven by the desire to explain how very small chemical modifications on proteins affect their biomolecular structure and function, a knowledge important from both fundamental and biomedical perspective. Most of our current work is focused on chemical understanding of histones and actin, proteins that undergo diverse modifications. 


Which question would you really like to find an answer to? 

It is impressive that very tiny chemical modifications on proteins, so called posttranslational modifications, have a profound effect on how large proteins work. Our ambition is to develop chemical tools that enable the most precise molecular understanding of biological processes involving proteins. Modifications on histones, proteins that wrap DNA in human cells, are particularly intriguing because they can turn genes on and off. It has become clear that for any microscopic biological phenomenon, there is chemistry behind it. This chemical world is what we hope to understand in great detail. 


What is the biggest breakthrough in your field? 

Most people know that the genetic information is stored in DNA. How then is it possible that we have more than 200 different cell types if all of them possess the same DNA? It turned out that DNA is only part of the story, and that histone proteins that tightly pack DNA in human cells play the key role via so called epigenetic mechanisms, the modifications that go beyond the primary sequence of genes. Discoveries of numerous posttranslational modifications on histones and the biomolecular machinery that controls such modifications have provided another layer of the complexity of human epigenome and life itself.   


How do you hope that others can benefit from your research? 

We aim to unravel basic molecular mechanisms of biological processes, in human health and disease. Precise chemical understanding of interactions and reactions between biomolecules should provide basis for drug discovery programmes in academia and industry. My hope is that our chemical compounds, methods and approaches will help scientists working on pressing problems in biomedicine. 


What fascinates you the most in chemistry? 

It is truly fascinating how the molecular structure – that is how do atoms connect and arrange in the molecule – affects the molecular properties and biological function. Another remarkable phenomenon is the link between nonliving and living matter; molecules are not alive but at some point life that is based on the same molecules emerges. But it starts with chemistry. 


What part of the professor job do you like the most? 

I very much like working on exciting scientific problems together with motivated, curious and smart students and postdocs. Such endeavors remind me that I learn from them as much as they learn from me.    


Who inspires you the most? 

Nature has been the source of inspiration for most natural scientists, including me. As a child, I found inspiration in scientists of the 18th and 19th century, when science was still quite primitive, but elegant ideas and innovative experimental setup enabled them to make breakthroughs on which we build science today.  


What do you do, when you are not researching? 

I spend time with my family. In the warmer part of the year, we spend most of days outdoors, enjoying the time together. During summer holidays, we are traveling so that my children and wife spend time together with relatives. At least they can, as I have a habit to work during summer in a more relaxed atmosphere. Going back to the question why did I become a researcher, if I try to leave chemistry, chemistry does not leave me. .

Last Updated 28.03.2023