Employee of the Month - Gernot Kaber

December 2016Infectious Diseases

Gernot Kaber

Gernot Kaber says, “Whatever machine, animal model or resource is needed for a project, it can be found somewhere [at Stanford]!” As a basic life research scientist in the Division of Infectious Diseases, Gernot would know. Via what Gernot calls “broad experience” with many different research methods and models, he helps graduate students (and sometimes post docs) with experimental planning, setup and analysis, which ensures that the experiments produce reliable high quality data.

He’s so good at it, Bollyky Lab Manager Heather Ishak says, “Gernot used to be our secret weapon.” However, she adds, “Word got out somehow. Post docs and PIs regularly seek him out from other labs for advice.  His positive interactions with other labs are contributing to better science and collaborations here at Stanford.”

The Science

Paul Bollyky also recognizes Gernot’s contributions to science at Stanford. He says, “Dr. Kaber is doing exciting, ground breaking work on a number of projects. His work on molecular biology, animal models of immunologic diseases and histology are critical to the functioning of the lab. He has made himself indispensable.”

Before coming to Stanford to work in the Bollyky Lab in December 2014, Gernot studied pharmacy at the Heinrich-Heine University in Dusseldorf, earned his PhD at the Institute for Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology there and then completed a research fellowship at the Benaroya Research Institute in Seattle. While in Dusseldorf, he says, “Most of my work was cardiovascular in nature and done in mice, rats and rabbits. I acquired a lot of experience in small animal work and surgery. My work [in Seattle] was focused on extracellular matrix components and their impact in lung disease and autoimmunity.”

As a result of his expertise and dedication, Bollyky says, “Gernot is a valued contributor to nearly every project going on in the lab and a co-author on three publications in the past year and will be included on several others that are in preparation or in review.”

Putting Others First

This devotion to the work of others can come at a price. “Spending a lot of time to ensure that other people do well with their research and that the lab is productive” makes it challenging, says Gernot, “to keep my own research projects on track.”

Lab manager Heather Ishak sees exactly what Gernot is talking about. She says that he is so dedicated to his “lab family” that “his own productivity should suffer because he is constantly supporting the other research staff, but he makes up for it by working longer and coming in on the weekends to finish projects. He goes above and beyond expectations.”

The practice of putting others’ work ahead of his own is one reason Gernot says the Employee of the Month award feels “great! It is always nice to know that all the hard work is appreciated. It is good to know that others recognize that my input is valuable and helpful.”

And they certainly do. Paul Bollyky says, “Gernot is the hardest working member of the lab. He regularly puts in long hours and is clearly devoted to the success of the projects he is working on and to the lab in general. Gernot is a particularly effective teacher and mentor to junior members of the lab.”

Post-doc Ben Danielson, who has been mentored by Gernot, offers additional details. He calls Gernot a “fantastic scientist” and says, “Gernot is a tireless worker that probably spends more time everyday helping other people with their research than he does on his own projects. Whenever I am having problems with my research (which is quite often), Gernot never hesitates to lend a helping hand and troubleshoot possible solutions. Even on weekend afternoons, he will give up time out of his day to help out and ensure the success of everyone in the lab.”

The “Go-To” Guy

These qualities make Gernot “the ‘go-to’ guy,” says senior staff researcher Nadine Nagy. “He has exceptional scientific knowledge and is a great mentor, which is why everybody – from grad students to PIs – reaches out to him. He is very passionate about science and loves sharing what he knows. He is a fountain of knowledge everyone can count on. He spends multiple hours each week helping others with their experiments, by discussing, troubleshooting and generating new ideas. All in all, he is known for his intelligence and his devotion to work.”

Like Nagy, Ishak sees how much everyone relies on Gernot. She says, “I’ve worked closely with Gernot for two years. He treats the lab as an extension of his own family.  Gernot is the ‘go-to’ person for trouble-shooting experiments because not only does he have the expertise to supply practical and technical assistance, but he also makes time to listen and help.”

Post-doc Koshika Yadava agrees and says, “Gernot is the powerhouse of the lab. He is an encyclopedia of scientific methods and is always up for a heated debate on science. As a post doc I have benefited a lot from his knowledge, to design my own research. Besides enriching the lab intellectually, he is also extremely helpful, taking care of the daily mundane tasks so that the lab can function efficiently.” 

Gernot is “exactly the kind of scientist every lab manager wants,” concludes Ishak. “He does so much behind the scenes work such as restocking supplies, cleaning the centrifuges, taking out recycling and putting away supplies. If there is a freezer alarming down the hall, he will go report it to the lab. If someone drops a stack of papers in the hall, he helps pick them up.  All of these actions are little things that add up to a lot and make for a great working environment.”