Personal account of my career
As a child I was fortunate to be raised in a scientific environment and would often hear animated discussions about theoretical physics which sounded like ancient Greek to me due to the names of elementary particles. It was there that I picked up the enthusiasm for sciences and perhaps without knowing it for the letter ß! At a relatively young age I was wondering whether I would study astronomy, geology or biology. Since I like nature I initially started to study geology but swiftly shifted to biochemistry which appeared a more lively basic science to me.
1976 I started my Ph.D studies in the laboratory of Dr. B. Jeanrenaud
at the University of Geneva to work on the role of cytoskeletal
proteins in hepatic secretion of lipoproteins. It was an excellent
environment to start a scientific career particularly in view of
the fact that our laboratory was closely associated with that of
Dr. A. Renold who had set up a reputed laboratory in the field of
diabetes. Thus, early in my career I could often get to know and
discuss with outstanding investigators who would pay a visit to
these laboratories or spend a year on sabbatical. From 1980 to 1984
I was in the laboratory of Dr. Renold to work with Dr. Claes Wollheim
on the role of intracellular organelles in Ca2+ homeostasis and
insulin secretion. We identified the respective roles of the mitochondrion,
the endoplasmic reticulum and secretory granules in this process
and, in collaboration with Dr. M. Berridge, showed that IP3 is a
cellular messenger which releases Ca2+ from the endoplasmic reticulum.
In 1984 I obtained a postdoctoral fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation to join the group of Franz Matschinsky at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. I began to work on pancreatic ß-cell metabolic signaling and developed in collaboration with Dr. B. Corkey a model of fuel sensing which underscores the role of anaplerosis and lipid signaling in this process. I also continued my work on Ca2+ signaling at the single cell level with microfluorimetry and made the surprising finding that different members of seemingly identical cells in a population of ß-cells exhibit distinct and reproducible Ca2+ spiking patterns which we proposed to term Ca2+ " fingerprints ". During this period of time I initially earned a career development award from the American Diabetes Association and then from the Cloëtta Foundation of Switzerland which allowed me to return in 1987 to Geneva at the Institut de Biochimie Clinique.
In 1989 I became an assistant professor with an independent laboratory working on the role of glucose and fatty acids in the regulation of insulin secretion and gene expression in the ß-cell, the main line of research which I have pursued since. In 1994 I joined the Department of Nutrition of the University of Montreal as an associate Professor of Nutrition and Biochemistry. I am presently a full Professor and researcher at the Centre de Recherche du CHUM of the University of Montreal where I have established a Molecular Nutrition Unit working in the field of diabetes, and, in collaboration with other investigators, on the role of calorigenic nutrients in cancer.