Tony Heitkam. Photo provided by Tony Heitkam
Tony Heitkam. Photo provided by Tony Heitkam

Tony is interested in plant genome evolution and polyploidy with a focus on the role of repetitive DNA and transposable elements. She is a scientist at TU Dresden’s Institute of Botany. Her research lies at the interface of (epi)genomics, chromosome and molecular biology, underpinned by bioinformatics and data science.

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Night Owl

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?


4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

These things seem to accumulate… so there are old maps, various astronomical equipment, ammonite fossils, archaeopteryx pictures and a beautiful neutron beam image of a rose.

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?

German (native), English, and a bit of French

8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

I am an information junkie, so this has to play a role: Being a scientist is ideal, a librarian as well, maybe a journalist, and I would absolutely love to design escape rooms.

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

I am perfectly happy in plant biology/genomics, but sometimes, I am asking myself, why I am not digging up any dinosaurs.

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

Into the spring and into the sun.

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Super memory

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

I often go back to Nirvana’s version of “The Man Who Sold The World” and adore the cello. I imagine this may resonate with many of my age group.

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Have a picnic wih people I like. Go swimming.

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

I think I could live without nearly everything, but not without everyone.

15 What beverage gives you life?


16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

I probably have read every book of the school/local library. Regarding Literature classes, I’ve been fascinated by the expressionists, such as Else Lasker-Schüler (and totally bored out by Fontane). I never got Kafka.

17 What did you want to be when you grew up?


18 What drives you and keeps you going?

I like to add to current thought processes/conversations.

19 What got you excited in science?

That it may be possible to figure out how the world works.

20 What excites you about science now?

That it may be possible to figure out how the world works – one question at the time.

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Autoplaying Youtube.

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

I can juggle burning torches.

23 What is your favorite game?

Final Fantasy VII.

24 What is the last book you read?

Tomorrow’s Table

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

“An abstract is abstract.” – Keeps me sane before every conference.

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

Jumping from a cliff into a lake (without dying).

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

Stay as you are. Go out more often. Upset your parents.

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

Playing the guitar or the piano. Swimming.

29 What is the last thing you watched?

“The Princess Bride” with the children. They did not get the humour, but liked the sword fights.

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

Plant samples and chemicals? Wisdom teeth in ethanol? Nothing too weird, I guess.

31 What is your favorite animal?

Plant samples and chemicals? Wisdom teeth in ethanol? Nothing too weird, I guess.

32 What is your favorite book?

Brandon Sanderson’s “Stormlight Archive” immediately captured my Top 10.

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Chocolate, hazelnuts and bananas. Tiramisu. Mousse au chocolat.

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

I have a love-hate relationship with April 1st.

35 What is your favorite plant?

I like most green plants. And if I am not in charge of watering, they may even survive.

36 What is your favorite science fact?

I like telling my children that the stars they see may not even exist anymore, because their light takes so long to reach us.

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?

freshly mown grass; the smell of fresh coffee after waking up

39 What is your favorite sound?

I enjoy watching and listening to people making music.

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

I am an optimist. + I am able to change my mind in the view of good arguments.

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?

Dodecahedron. Tri-hexa-flexagon. Of course, this changes daily.

42 What is your proudest moment?

I am so happy, if someone I care about and have influenced receives recognition. Of course, I have also been extremely proud/happy/delving in freedom, when I received my first grant.

43 What kind of tree would you be?

…a birch?

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

Good combination between historic and lively/alternative. Not too crowded and very green. People I like live here.

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

I like fractals and spirals.

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Sònia Garcia (@sphaeromeria), Vânia H. Techio (@vhtechio), Maša Roller (@RmMasa), Susann Auer (@SusannAuer) and Kathrin Seibt (@kathse1984)