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From technical college to a PhD: a career blueprint

Adrian Lendvai discovered his passion for medicine while he was doing his civilian national service. Today, he is a research assistant specialising in the use of mass spectrometry at IMC Krems, where he is helping to bring about improvements in treatment approaches that promote bone regeneration.

Young researcher Adrian Lendvai, MSc (27) is a research associate and is working on the REGIMOPROT project to investigate the extracellular matrix in allografts.

What is your research focus?

I mainly carry out research into proteins; we call this field proteomics. For our analysis we use mass spectrometry to identify and quantify proteins in samples. Mass spectrome-try generates a kind of “bar code” for an unknown protein, which we then pinpoint with the help of databases. More specifically, we examine bone implants – known as allografts – in order to characterise the significance of the proteins we identify for the bone regeneration process. For me, the most exciting aspect of this project is the link to a product that is already used in the medical sector. That enables us to play a part in improving these implants, and our work also has an impact on patient treatment.

Who are the partners on this project? And what is the objective?

We have partnered with Cells + Tissuebank Austria, a non-profit that ensures supplies of human tissue to the medical sector. Donor tissue is processed using the organisation’s inhouse cleaning procedure, called the Allotec® process, which enables it to produce safe, high-quality implants. This also preserves the biomechanical and biological properties that are associated with bone regeneration, and the proteins and peptides in the implant play important roles in this. To begin with, our goal is to isolate the extracellular matrix, which basically refers to all the proteins and peptides in the implant. After that, we analyse these extracts using mass spectrometry and draw up a specific protocol so that we can isolate a matrix of higher-quality proteins that occur in greater quantities. 

What do you find most fascinating about this line of research?

On the one hand, I would say it’s the analytical process based on mass spectrometry – we’re seeing continuous improvements in this area, and new equipment that is even more powerful and sensitive is being introduced all the time. This method is also increasingly being applied in industry, so I think having that expertise now will be a huge benefit later on in my career. And I find protein research particularly fascinating as well, because there are many functions that the human body cannot perform without proteins, or if proteins are not functioning properly. 

What makes this project so special?

I think only a handful of students have the opportunity to use mass spectrometry in the course of their PhD project and enhance their expertise in this way. What’s more, it’s great to be working with a corporate partner because that means the project covers industrial aspects, too. It’s also really fascinating to find out about the differences between industrial and academic research.

Why did you decide to study biotechnology?

I discovered my passion for medicine while I was doing my civilian national service with the Red Cross, but I wasn't really interested in becoming a doctor. So I looked for a degree programme that combined medicine and technology, and that’s when I came across IMC Krems. I knew straight away that I wanted to study biotechnology. And I also knew that I would go on to do a master degree, because I’m quite a driven person. The entire team, the other students, and all of the lecturers and other academic staff were just great. 

How did the idea of doing a PhD come about and what were the motives behind your decision?

The idea of doing a PhD came to me pretty spontaneously after I’d spoken to Prof. Harald Hundsberger about my current project on the day of the master exam. Especially in the biotech sector, you can’t really go wrong if you do a PhD. So I decided to apply for the place right away. Besides the research topic, another motivation was the chance for personal development during this period, because every now and again you reach your limits, but at the same time you learn something new about yourself. Where are my weaknesses, what am I particularly good at, and where can I improve? I think that you grow into difficult tasks and a PhD lends itself very well to doing that. But you also need staying power because experiments don’t always work at the first attempt. 

About Adrian Lendvai 

27-year-old Adrian Lendvai is a research assistant at IMC Krems. He is currently working on the REGIMOPROT project, carrying out research on the extracellular matrix in allografts, as well as studying regenerative medicine at the University for Continuing Education Krems. On the research project, he is part of a group headed by Prof. Harald Hundsberger of IMC Krems. Adrian studied mechanical engineering at the higher technical college in St Pölten before going on to do both his bachelor and master degrees in Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology at IMC Krems.