Checking back: What has become of our formerly funded scientists?

Today we are going to introduce you to Prof. Dr. Stefanie Kürten, an EKFS First Applicant in 2013.

Prof. Dr. Stefanie Kürten has been Professor for Neuroanatomy at the Institute of Anatomy within University Hospital Bonn since 2020. The emphasis of her research lies on multiple sclerosis (MS), a neurological disease that more than 250,000 people suffer from in Germany. The rapid transfer of research findings to clinical application is especially important to her in the course of her work. She also sets new accents during the training to become a physician and wants to develop the Bonn location into a center for clinical anatomy. 

Stefanie Kürten completed her studies in medicine from 2002 to 2008 at the University of Cologne. She qualified as professor in the fields of anatomy and cytology in 2011. During her studies in medicine she readily spent numerous stays as a visiting researcher at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and worked on her doctorate there as well. Having barely turned 29, the scientist followed the call to the University of Würzburg in 2013, where she assumed a professorship for Anatomy and Cytology. That same year she was the recipient of funding from Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung following a first application toward establishing a new area within her work group with a promising future: the neuroprotective effect of pharmaceutical drugs in the case of diseases affecting the nervous system. The funding facilitated follow-up financing by the German Research Foundation (DFG) within the framework of a post-graduate program (GRK 2162) along with the start of a clinical pilot study together with Dr. Thorsten Heider at the St. Marien Hospital in Amberg, Dept. of Neurology, in order to initiate a multicentered clinical study in the near future. The specialist for MS subsequently moved on to Erlangen in 2017 in a capacity as Head of the Institute for Anatomy and Cell Biology. Alongside her activities in research, the numerous honors she has been awarded equally show that teaching is a focal point for her, for example the “Prize for Good Teaching” from FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg in 2020. 

What the research scientist values first and foremost in her work is the contact to many young people and scientists worldwide. Prof. Dr. Kürten places a high priority on teamwork. Which occasionally results in everyone having midnight pizza when an experiment is currently in progress. The hope of one day being able to understand multiple sclerosis and decisively improve the therapy, above all for the progressive phases (primary and secondary), motivates the scientist in her projects. 

A native of Germany’s Rhineland, she has remained loyal to the annual “Carnival” celebration that precedes Lent, even at her posts in the Franconian region. Among her highlights are the announcements of “Karneval” parties for students as surprise events at neuroanatomy lectures – including filming a spectacular video in the basement of the Anatomy department. It was a great pleasure for her to watch the students surpass each other with theme-based costumes such as “Alice in Wonderland”, “Color Out of Space”, and “Horror”. The special appearances by Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and Jigsaw – alias Prof. Wörl from Anatomy – will remain vividly memorable for her.