Thomas Postler, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Microbiology & Immunology at the Columbia University Medical Center where he studies transcriptional regulation in immune cells. On Saturdays during the academic school year, Dr. Postler teaches a high school-level Virology class in the Columbia’s Science Honors Program.
Thomas grew up in the small town of Amberg, Germany. In comparing his hometown to New York City, Thomas shares that, “basically, everything in New York is better, except for the cost of living”.
Every few years or so, there is this moment when you are the first person ever to observe some new detail about how the universe works. There is nothing quite like that feeling.
Can you think of a specific time when you found science or pursuing science challenging?
“Science is almost always challenging, but the worst is when your carefully built hypothesis falls apart and all your hard work was for naught. Not too long ago, we spent a year creating a mutant mouse, based on very promising preliminary data. Turns out that our working model was completely wrong, the mutant mice behaved exactly like the controls, and there went our hypothesis. On the bright side, I am very excited about figuring out what is really going on with this mouse…”
If you could give one piece of advice to young scientists or students, what would it be?
“I can only speak for the biological sciences, but here things don’t work 90% of the time. Don’t panic – this is normal.”
Have you ever made something explode or otherwise wildly go wrong in lab?
“Yes, I have. Details are classified.”
Why did you decide to come to NYC?
“Because it’s New York! I fell in love with the City a long time ago.”
What is the funniest/strangest thing you have seen in NYC
“A couple of years ago, I was at the dog run in Madison Square Park on the morning after Halloween. There were two young children in dog costumes, running around among all the actual dogs. I applaud the parents for their surreal sense of humor.”
When you are done training, do you plan to stay in NYC?
“In science, your training is never done.”
If you were a lab animal/model organism, which would you be and why?
“Probably a tardigrade. I like the idea of being able to survive in the vacuum of space.”
If the building was burning, what single item would you grab as you ran out the door and why?
“That depends very much on the building.”