Tanja Freichel visited the Chemistry Lab at the Davidson College, in North Carolina, USA in frame of the StayConnected@HHU Programme

Since June 2015, Tanja Freichel is a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Organic and Macromolecular Chemistry in the research group of Prof. Dr. Laura Hartmann at HHU.

In the context of JUNO's StayConnected@HHU Programme, Mrs. Freichel spent three months working at the laboratory of HHU Alumna Prof. Dr. Nicole Snyder at Davidson College in North Carolina, USA in early 2018. She tested the possible selectivity of synthetic substances on human cells in order to explore their use in clinical diagnostics and tumor therapy.

Tanja Freichel, Photo: © Susana Mogollón

You received both your bachelor’s and master’s degree in Frankfurt: Why did you choose Prof. Hartmann’s research group in Düsseldorf for your Ph.D.?

Because both of my degrees were from the University in Frankfurt, I wanted a change of scenery. I searched for a position and I liked Prof. Laura Hartmann’s job offering. I applied for it and got to meet the research group. Prof. Hartmann was positive about my application and left me with a choice and I took the position here.

How did the cooperation between Prof. Snyder at Davidson College and the research group at HHU come about?

The collaboration between Prof. Hartmann and Prof. Snyder is long standing. They know each other from the time they worked together at the Max-Planck-Institut in Berlin. After Prof. Hartmann had moved to Düsseldorf, Prof. Snyder got the chance to do a sabbatical. Since she already knew Prof. Hartmann, she decided to come to Düsseldorf. That's how the collaboration between both laboratories started. At that time I had just begun working as a Ph.D. student at HHU. We got along very well from the beginning and we set up a project together, which led to our first joint publication.

You stayed three months in the U.S.A. Is it different to work with someone who has already worked and research at HHU?

The good thing was, that we already knew each other. The transition was very easy because I already had her as a contact person in the USA. Prof. Snyder had already worked at HHU, so I knew what her research projects were about and knew what I was going to work on there. It was a nice experience to arrive there, Prof. Snyder even picked me up from the airport and introduced me to all professors in the department and showed me the campus.

Could you please tell us a little bit about your project? Do you have an example for its application that a non-specialist can understand?

We are a synthetic research group. We try to synthetically copy things from nature through chemical experience. The special thing about the exchange with Prof. Snyder’s lab is that I got to work on human cells, which is important for my research topic. Here at HHU, we can test our samples, but the department doesn’t have a lab facility with safety level 1 yet, which is required for the tests with human cells. I took sugar-based samples with me to Davidson College, cultivated human cells and tested our samples on their influence on cancer cells. We wanted to find out if our substances can be used to reach specific cells. Within a therapy it is really important to only reach tumor cells, some sort of selectivity over healthy cells is required. Only then would it be possible to use these substances as a marker in clinical diagnosis or even in cancer therapy.

How did this project benefit from your stay at the Davidson College? Are there any joint publications planned?

My research stay at Davidson College brought us, of course, a lot of data and I’m still going through it. But the results show a positive application of our substances as markers. Based on these results we are currently writing a publication planned on this topic.

Are there any plans for another exchange with Prof. Snyder’s lab?

My colleague Sophia Boden will also travel to the US this fall. She will make tests on human cells for a related research field and will also use the chance to work together with Prof. Snyder.

What could we do to make the research cooperation with HHU even better?

I found the application and the process itself very pleasant and easy. I’m satisfied with the way everything went.

Interview by Susana Mogollón in June 2018.

Personal Details

Tanja Freichel


- Bachelor in Chemistry, Goethe University Frankfurt

2015 - Master in Chemistry, Goethe University Frankfurt

since 2015 - Doctoral candidate at HHU in the Institute of Organic and Macromolecular Chemistry in Prof. Dr. Laura Hartmann's research group.

Joint Publications with the hosting facility:

Freichel, T.; Eierhoff, S.J.; Snyder, N.L.; Hartmann, L.: "Towards Orthogonal Preparation of Sequence-Defined Monodisperse Glycomacromolecules on Solid Support using the Staudinger Ligation and Copper-Catalyzed Click Reactions“ under revision for submission to the Journal of Organic Chemistry 2017 82(18), 9400-9409.

Flyer Download

Responsible for the content: