When Matthew Gott first came to Dresden, he knew the city only from picturesque shots of historic buildings. 18 month later he spends many evening walking through those pictured streets.
Every time Matthew Gott goes for an evening stroll, it feels to him like going back in time as well. No wonder – after all, his favorite route leads him through one of the oldest parts of Dresden. Starting from the bridge Augustusbrücke the famous Semperoper is illuminated on his right. Straight ahead the majestic cathedral rears towards the sky. Proceeding further up the river Elbe on the elevated platform Brühlsche Terrasse he passes by various museums – located in opulent buildings of the closing 19th century – while the Frauenkirche towers not far away in the background. Finally, he hits the second bridge Carolabrücke, which brings him back to the younger district Neustadt on the other side of the river.
“This area exemplifies nearly everything Europe is well-known for in the US: beautiful historic architecture and open spaces with nice fountains,” Matthew Gott assesses and adds jokingly. “And little cafés, in which people from different cultures discuss the meaning of life.” The mix of languages flying through the air illustrates this image quite clearly. But the researcher from Tennessee is not the first one to notice the beauty of the terrace. Already Johann Wolfgang von Goethe called it Europe’s balcony. It was such perspectives that convinced Gott to come to the Saxon city. “To be perfectly honest, I had never heard of Dresden during my schooling”, the radiochemist admits. “It took a conference in Prague to become aware of the city.”
Via Prague to Dresden
However, after meeting the director of HZDR’s Institute of Radiopharmaceutical Cancer Research there, Dresden soon got the young scientist’s attention: “I looked online at pictures and soon decided that I could live here. So while finishing my PhD project at the University of Missouri, I applied for a position.” And thanks to his knowledge in the field of alpha emitters the American expert was very much welcomed into the High Potentials program of the Saxon research center. “HZDR has a strong focus in the development of radioactive pharmaceuticals to diagnose and treat tumors. We are working to create a drug containing an alpha emitter, which destroys the cancerous cells by irradiating them from within the human body.”
Together with his colleagues he, thus, wants to incorporate the radioactive metal radium into a complex. “If we prepare it correctly, it localizes in or on the tumor, thereby transporting its radioactive cargo to it as well,” Matthew Gott explains. “Once there, radium’s highly ionizing energy would lead to double-strand breaks in the DNA of the cells.” In this way the alpha emitter could become a strong weapon in the fight against cancer. “However, it will take significant further development until this could be a real possibility,” the researcher cautions.
Until then Gott could imagine living in Dresden, especially as the work-life balance is completely different to his native country: “It’s much healthier here. The working hours are more flexible and you get more vacation days.” In his opinion this also leads to better work – “and if you need a quick energy boost you can always admire the beautiful settings of Dresden and Saxon Switzerland.”