Carolin Lieber, a Ph.D. student in the Translational Biomedical Sciences program and the recipient of the prestigious Rosalind Franklin Society Award in Science, strives to be a role model.
By LaTina Emerson
ATLANTA — Carolin Lieber has wanted to become a scientist since she asked her parents for a microscope as a young child. With more than five years of experience in the virology field, she’s now conducting pivotal research on infectious diseases, including influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus and SARS-CoV-2, and winning prestigious research awards.
Born in Stuttgart, Germany, and raised in Oberaichen, Germany, Lieber will be the first in her family to earn a Ph.D. when she completes her degree from the Translational Biomedical Sciences program in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences in December. After graduation, she plans to become a postdoctoral fellow at Georgia State and eventually work as a lab group leader, principal investigator or join the biomedical industry.
Lieber was recently awarded the Second Annual Rosalind Franklin Society Award in Science after publishing a review article on pandemic preparedness in the journal DNA and Cell Biology. Mary Ann Liebert Inc., in partnership with the Rosalind Franklin Society, gives the prestigious annual award to the best paper of the year by a woman or underrepresented minority in science in each of the publisher’s 100 peer-reviewed journals. The award highlights the important contributions of these scientists and provides role models for younger scientists following in their footsteps.
The award was launched last fall for all of the Liebert journals in science, medicine and biotechnology. Each winner receives $1,000 and a personalized plaque, and they will be featured in interviews, speaking opportunities and press releases. Their work will also be showcased by related professional societies and partners. The winners were announced in July in honor of Rosalind Franklin’s birthday.
“It is a great honor to receive the award, and I’m sure that it will boost my career,” Lieber said.
Her review paper in DNA and Cell Biology discussed 4’-fluorouridine (4’-FlU) being a broad-spectrum, orally available first-line antiviral drug that may improve pandemic preparedness. The review also focused on some currently approved and emerging medicines developed against SARS-CoV-2, examining their potential to form a pharmacological first-line defense against zoonotic viruses with pandemic potential.
Lieber has always strived to be a role model and resource to other scientists in the lab, ranging from undergraduate students to postdoctoral fellows.
“I really enjoy teaching and giving knowledge to future scientists,” Lieber said. “I had several students that I taught different methods, and all of them learned something. I see myself as a role model, and having a role model allows young scientists to grow in a safe environment.”
Lieber earned a bachelor’s degree in molecular medicine and a master’s degree in virology and oncology from the University of Tuebingen in Germany. She chose the Translational Biomedical Sciences program because it met all of her interests and offered an individualized experience. She is enjoying her Ph.D. project and has benefitted tremendously from the mentorship she has received from Dr. Richard Plemper, a renowned scientist and director of the Center for Translational Antiviral Research.
“The competitive and personalized program focuses on the transition of basic biomedical sciences to new clinical therapies,” Lieber said. “I wanted to become an expert on the antiviral research field. Studying antivirals from screening to in vitro and in vivo testing, until potential candidates advance for clinical testing, fascinates me.”
She selected Georgia State because of its diversity, research potential and location in the vibrant city of Atlanta.
“Being a student at GSU means being a part of a great network and the Panther family,” Lieber said. “I’m proud to attend one of the most diverse universities in the U.S. Learning about different cultures fascinates me a lot. Furthermore, GSU has a rich and growing research program.”
As a young child, Lieber asked her parents for a simple light microscope so she could analyze the different layers of an onion. After that, no scientific phenomenon was safe. She chose to attend a chemistry-based grammar school that offered seven hours of chemistry and four hours of biology instruction per week.
“Discovering the unknown always fascinated me,” Lieber said. “Biomedical research is helping to understand medical questions that have a direct impact in the clinic.”
During her master’s program, Lieber worked on antiviral drug discovery for several viruses, so she knew she wanted to specialize in the biomedical field. Plemper’s lab was a perfect match for her interests.
“I’m mainly working with influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus and SARS-CoV-2 to ensure preparedness for future pandemics,” Lieber said. “The overarching goal of my thesis is to identify, characterize and determine the efficacy profile of broad-spectrum polymerase inhibitors. This will lead to improved disease management and enhance pandemic preparedness. I’m performing many cell-based assays and in vivo studies. I want to contribute to preparing hospitals for future outbreaks so that medications are available for all humans suffering from a variety of diseases.”
Lieber and her lab teammates have published articles in a number of top-tier scientific journals, including Nature Communications, DNA and Cell Biology, PLOS Pathogens, Gut Microbes, Science and Science Advances. Several additional publications will be added in the near future.
Photo by Meg Buscema