Cynthia Kuhn

Research Stay at RWTH Aachen 2012: Guest Professor in the Program ERS International
Information about our Alumna

Prof. Dr. Cynthia Kuhn is Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke University in North Carolina, USA. Furthermore, she is a member of the renowned American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP).

Prof. Kuhn’s research stay at RWTH Aachen was coordinated by Prof. Florian Zepf (Junior Professor for Translational Brain Research in Psychiatry und Neurology III, University Hospital Aachen, Forschungszentrum Jülich) and Prof. Rüdiger von Nitzsch (Teaching and Research Area Decision Theory and Financial Services) with whom she worked closely together. In addition to her active involvement in current research projects, Prof. Kuhn participated in the symposium "Stimulating New Research on Serotonergic Neurotransmission from a Developmental Perspective," where she presented a paper titled "Serotonin in Adolescence: Role in Behavioral Inhibition.”


Interview with Cynthia Kuhn

Cynthia Kuhn Copyright: Thilo Vogel

Can you explain in a few sentences what your main research field is all about and its importance in a wider context?

I am interested in how the neurotransmitter serotonin influences behavior in animal models, with an emphasis on the changing role of serotonin during adolescence.

What led to your research stay at RWTH Aachen? Is there a specific reason why you chose Germany and why our university for your research visit?

I have been collaborating with Dr. Florian Zepf, the only individual in the world who can manipulate serotonin function in adolescent humans. We are collaborating to develop new nutritional approaches toward enhancing and impairing serotonin function to study its role in behavior in healthy and psychiatrically ill adolescents.

Is there something you think German academia could learn from academia in the US or vice-versa?

German academia is outstanding. I think Americans do not understand how sophisticated their research programs are. I think they could learn to develop research projects into more in-depth investigations of a particular problem instead of completing single experiments. I think US academia could learn two things: how to conduct research in adolescents humanely but effectively, and how to work very effectively in geographically clustered teams. The close and collaborative nature of Dr. Zepf's research group was impressive.

Looking back on your stay at RWTH Aachen University - What was your most rewarding experience? Which tangible outcomes of your stay are most important?

My most rewarding experience was participating in their lab meetings, and having a reciprocal scientific interchange with colleagues that I would otherwise never have even met. The tangible outcomes of my stay are an improved understanding of how my research in animals integrates with and is informed by the human studies that are being conducted in Aachen.

Is there anything else you would like to say or do you have any further comments?

I enjoyed every aspect of my visit. I gave several talks at which audiences were attentive and quite interactive. The English mastery and scientific sophistication of the entire research group impressed me. I was also very impressed with the imaging facilities available, and at incredibly modest cost compared to the US. The government support of imaging makes a broad range of studies feasible that could not be easily conducted in the US except by a few elite labs.