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Brilliant Minds

Dr. Krishnaraj Rajalingam, India

Krishnaraj Rajalingam was born in India. He studied Biology and is now working at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin.

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A part of his research focusses on some essential questions of cancer development. How do bacterial infections influence the formation of a tumor? And how can a "normal" cancer cell become a metastatic cancer cell - the tumor forms in one region, and it goes to a completely different region?

Krishnaraj Rajalingam and his team have identified a gene which seems to be crucial for tumor migration. It drives the tumor cells to move, from the normal site of origin to a distant region. Possibly a way to develop a treatment against metastasis.

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Krishnaraj Rajalingam in Tomorrow Today's interview:

Why did you choose Germany for your research - and not the US, for example?
If you talk to any motivated Indian guy, his first option after finishing his college is to go to the United States. But I find it very interesting in Germany, because - if you look for example at the Max Planck Institutes, we are in fact well equipped and one of the top class institutions in the world. Most of the finest research comes from Germany. We know Germany for automobile industry and science, many Noble laureates come from Germany. Of course, Germany is a land of science.

And your Institute in Berlin, what does it make so attractive?
We are Max Planck, that is the biggest advantage. We get anything we want, we got the world's best facilities, it is really a privilege, honour and gift to be at a Max Planck Institute. As a scientist, I feel really great here, because it is international. We have everything under one roof, we have Americans, we have Australians, we are people from all over Europe. Our official language is English.

Please tell us something about your background. Why did you decide to do cancer research?
I come from a very small relation in India, where you don't have big medical hospitals. My grandpa was my biggest inspiration. He was a doctor, and he had a small clinic, close to the house. I grew up with him, and I used to go with him to the clinic. There he did a great service to all the poor people, because he used to treat them for very little money.
My grandpa used to tell me that he wanted me to become a doctor. That's how I got this. It was my passion from day one: I wanted to be a scientist and to help the humanity in some way.

And so you came to Germany. Do you like living here?

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The most part of the day, I spend in the lab. I have very little private life, and my wife is not so happy with it. But she is an economist and has a passion for science as well.
Well, I like the punctuality in Germany and the cleanliness. And I like the professionalism in approaching a work. The only problem for me is the language. It is a major barrier. For example, I mix up "Du" and "Sie" several times. But I try to speak German and to learn German every day from my collegues.
People are quite friendly here. If you talk to them in German, they reply you with a smile. And if you make some mistake, they try to tolerate it. What I dont like in Germany? It is hard to tell. May be the cold, this terrific cold.

Was it difficult for you to get into contact with the people in Berlin?
I have a lot of German friends. We meet very often and we go to the best Indian restaurants in Berlin or to German restaurants. And we have parties and private meetings. I enjoy Berlin. Me and my wife, we go around and around and enjoy the vibrancy and the culture of Berlin: the Potsdamer Platz, the Zoo - its a great place, and here are a lot of spots to go along.

Finally: Your plannings for the future?

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I am here since 5 years now. In one way, it would be good to see a different place. It is the only option which may drive me to go to another institute. On the other hand, Berlin is a great place, and I feel gifted here to be at the Max Planck Institute. So it would not be surprising if I stay in Germany for my life time.

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