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Biophysicist in Profile

Christian Jorgensen

Christian Jorgensen

December 2023 // 818

Christian Jorgensen's childhood included living in Copenhagen, Denmark, until the age of 11 years, followed by a move to Mexico, where he attended a rural school and participated in the Mexican Academic Decathlon. At 16 years of age, he returned to Denmark for further studies and later joined his family in Sweden for high school. With the guidance of a British head teacher and coordinator in Sweden, he decided to pursue a Master of Chemistry at Merton College, University of Oxford. In his family, he is the only scientist, while his siblings have diverse careers in fields ranging from art to journalism.

Jorgensen's academic journey began at the University of Oxford under Tim Softley and Veronique Gouverneur. While studying there, he did a lot of teaching on the side to supplement his studies. He also worked for an education technology company, teaching high school chemistry across Europe, which sparked his interest in teaching. In his final year of the MChem program, he embarked on a Part II project in computational chemistry in the Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory, and that sparked his interest in computational work.

After the MChem program, Jorgensen spent two years at the University of Lorraine, working in biophysics. He later embarked on a PhD in Chemistry at King’s College London, where he was a full-time graduate teaching assistant in chemistry, supporting mainly physical chemistry. During his PhD program, he con­tinued his specialization in computational chemistry, focusing on the binding and diffusion of ligands to membrane proteins. During that time, he was also a Royal Society Mobility Fellow at the School of Pharmacy of the University of Maryland and won Best Talk at the EU COST action workshop on monoamine oxi­dases. Towards the end of his PhD program, the King’s College London Chemistry Department recruited a new professor, Mar­tin Ulmschneider, whose teaching he was tasked with helping. Ulmschneider had come from being an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University and offered Jorgensen the opportu­nity to go to the United States as a postdoctoral fellow to work on Ulmschneider’s pre-existing grant on developing strategies against nerve agents crossing the blood-brain barrier.

Jorgensen's postdoc at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore focused on creating a computational model of the blood-brain barrier and efflux pumps. He also served as the President of the Johns Hopkins Postdoctoral Association. During this time, he underwent open-heart surgery, receiving generous sup­port from his advisor and parents. He ascribes good mentors to helping overcome this difficult time: “I encourage people to share difficulties with supportive mentors.” After his post­doc, he joined Georgetown University at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to work on transdermal delivery and com­plex skin membranes in collaboration with L’Oréal Research in Paris. He also served on the Early Careers Committee of the Biophysical Society. Living in Washington, DC during the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging, with a large swathe of U.S. federal work­ers leaving DC empty while they worked from home, as well as the arrival of political violence, in particular the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021. He notes, “Living only five blocks from the White House, I had soldiers sta­tioned on my street corner.” He observed significant animosity toward non-U.S. citizens and joined the Board of Directors at the non-profit Future of Research, where he authored a whitepaper on foreign postdocs in the United States. More recently, Jorgensen ob­tained a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action (MSCA) Individual Fel­lowship and moved to Denmark for the first time in 20 years. He is an MSCA Fellow at Aarhus University in Denmark on the project “Computational modelling of the human brain lipidome,” working on studies of the blood-brain barrier. During his time in Denmark, he also has been serving as organizer for the confer­ence “Advanced Methods in MD” to be held in December 2023 at the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences in Copenhagen.

When asked what the biggest challenge of his career was, Jorgensen replied, “As with most PhD students, the relationship with the advisor is the most crucial and at times challenging. I see good supervisors as an essential component to research. Where supervisors do not engage in good practices, this can cause a huge set of obstacles for the student.”

Jorgensen’s favorite thing about biophysics is all the aspects of complex membranes. He says, “Has nature selected for the exquisite compositional differences between different types of membranes? We still do not fully understand the role of cholesterol in different types of membranes, and I see col­leagues uncovering new details using large-scale computation­al resources or novel biophysical experiments.” Describing the most rewarding aspect of his work, he says, “I enjoy interacting with students, and I enjoy the scientific meetings and collab­orations. I have especially enjoyed working on committees at the Biophysical Society.” Jorgensen explains what he values in the Biophysical Society: “I find the format and inclusivity very special. The Annual Meeting is always a highlight for me, with the possibility to network with colleagues. I have really enjoyed working with the Early Careers Committee across two terms. I find the projects are very useful.” When Jorgensen is not work­ing, he enjoys traveling: “Google says I was in over 10 countries last year.” His advice to young people just starting their careers in biophysics is to seek out good mentors who are generous with their time. He also encourages people to seek out peers at their same career stage. This will help deal with the highs and lows of research. And, finally: Have fun!