Universiteit Utrecht   Universiteit Utrecht
 

Graduate School of Life Sciences  
Graduate School of Life Sciences
Master for Life Magazine
We proudly present to you the first MLM of 2015!
This magazine is intended for students and teachers and all other persons interested in the Life Sciences Community Utrecht.
The articles are written by Master’s students following the course Communicating Life Sciences taught by Rinze Benedictus and facilitated by de Graduates School of Life Sciences.


In this issue
•   It started with a dead mouse   •   Plan your graduation! and other tips from the Master's Administration office
•   The importance of networking in science   •   Watch out, or you'll become a scientist
A clean sea: Can fungi eat their way through the plastic waste problem?   Women in science: Where are they?
•   From practice to PhD   •   UMC Utrecht strategy is about... YOU
•   Letter to myself   •   How to accidentally become a scientists
Everything is possible: Profile of a foreign scientist   Open Access: To be or not to be
If you're going to San Francisco   Agenda
         

 
 
It started with a dead mouse
By Mignon de Goeij

My interest in biology started when I was about eight years old. I was playing at a friends’ house and behind a shed in the garden, we found a disemboweled mouse that had been at the mercy of her cat. To my friend’s horror, I was fascinated.

Ten years later I was still fascinated with biology, and decided to study Biomedical Sciences in Utrecht. Here, I am currently working on my Master Biology of Disease. I learned a lot, though maybe it can all be summed up in a single question: ‘But how does it work?’

 
Of late, another question has been added to my interest: ‘But how am I going to explain all that?’. This is why I am now enrolled in the Communication and Education profile of the Graduate School of Life Sciences, hoping to explain and transfer my interest in science to a wider audience.
 
Because this is a very broad interest, I enjoy how research groups with different expertises often work together. For example, I managed to be connected to the departments of Anatomy, Experimental Cardiology and Cell Biology over the course of a single research project. And also, I got to continue my investigation of dead mice.

Back to top.


 
The importance of networking in science
by Anita Ye & Ella Bosch

Being a good scientist is not only about having the best pipetting skills or having the newest technology in your lab. Two of the most important qualities of a good scientist are good grant writing skills and networking abilities. At least, that’s what Niels Bovenschen believes.
Niels Bovenschen is Associate Professor and group leader at the department of Pathology of the UMCU. He is the head of the Pathology Research Laboratory and the Core Facility Proteins. Currently Niels is studying the role of cytotoxic cell proteases called granzymes in inflammation, in viral infections, and in tumours.
   
Like many other researchers, Niels has to rely more and more on funding that is not coming from the university but from external sources. The competition for these grants is killing. In Niels’ field, only about 10% of grant proposal actually gets funded. “You want to be one of those few. That’s why you need to make sure your grant proposal is excellent,” he says.
   
This is where networking comes in highly useful. If you know your peers, and they know your work, it could certainly increase your chances to get your grant. “These little things can make a difference,” Niels says. But networking is not only important for getting your research going, it is also important for getting your findings and scientific concepts accepted. Just publishing articles in high impact journals is not enough these days; you need to communicate your research to fellow researchers in the field both face-to-face and at conferences. Especially when your findings are controversial the contacts you have made with people can come in handy. After all, not all scientists are keen on new scientific concepts and welcome them with open arms. But, Niels says, you need to be persistent. “When your findings and ideas are finally accepted, then you’re the hero.”

Back to top.

 
 
A clean sea: Can fungi eat their way through the plastic waste problem?
by Barbara Wiewel
 

Writing this, I just came back from a month traveling through Indonesia. On the beautiful island of Nusa Lembongan, we went on a snorkeling trip to see the impressive manta rays. Our tour guide “Captain Coconut”, asked us to collect the plastic we’d came across while snorkeling and bring it back into the boat. Although they say no action is too small, this definitely felt too small.

As we are entering 2015, I think we can safely say that almost everyone knows that plastic waste is a problem for marine ecosystems when it ends up in the oceans. What fewer people know however, is what we can do to solve this problem. Among these people are Utrecht researchers prof. dr. Wosten and MSc Lukasiewicz, who collaborated with the Austrian studio Livin in developing the Fungi Mutarium. This collaboration was initiated by the Dutch Bio Art and Design Award, an initiative that matches research institutes with designers to “push the boundaries of scientific-artistic concepts”.

The Fungi Mutarium is an agar substrate to culture edible fungi that digest and grow on plastic. The initial goal was to create an alternative food source, as it is expected that in 2050, 70% more food is needed and only 15% more can be produced in traditional ways. Helping to solve the plastic problem is actually ‘just’ a beneficial side effect of the project. Promisingly, it was successfully tested with world-wide abundant fungi S. commune and P. ostreatus.

The researchers are now attempting to create fungi that are faster in metabolizing the toxic waste. As prof. dr. Wosten puts it: “When these are available, plastic waste will become valuable and that certainly is one way to tackle the plastic problem”. Hopefully someday, when I go snorkeling in tropical seas again - there will be no plastic to collect.


Back to top.

 
From practice to PhD
by Susan Nieuwenhuize
 
Some people prove that with a healthy load of ambition and determination, you can achieve almost any goal. Thijs Koorman is one of those. He is a final-year PhD student and I talked to him about his research, and his unusual career.

Thijs has conducted 4 years of research in the group of Dr. Boxem at the Developmental Biology department at Utrecht University. “In short, we try to understand how molecules are unequally distributed within the cell. This asymmetric division is essential for stem cell division and the generation of specialized cell structures: cell polarity in other words.” Research into polarity is fundamental for our understanding of embryonal development but also for cancer research. After all, one of the hallmarks in the development of cancer is basically a cell that has lost its sense of direction and orientation. Thijs has used a high-throughput protein identification approach and, as a model organism for in vivo


research, the small worm C. elegans as his continual companion. “I think we managed to produce a resource for future reference regarding cell polarity. This does not only include protein interactions but also the biological meaning of those proteins regarding to polarity.”

 
Interestingly, Thijs has followed a different educational track compared to conventional higher education that delivers most PhD students. After secondary school he continued with a practically orientated training in cytology and histology (MBO/MLO) and this was followed up by educational training in applied science (HBO/HLO). Here he was trained in biochemistry and during his research internships he became interested in how cells communicate and especially how this relates with cancer. He explains his fascination as, “It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle in the dark, you have all the pieces, but can’t see how they fit together.”
 
Despite the competitive environment, he believes his alternative educational training has provided him a solid basis and also a broad social network. For Thijs, this has resulted in a guest teaching job and a position as board member of the graduation committee at his old school, which he finds highly enjoyable. The final goal for his career is not yet in sight. After his PhD he aspires to go for a post-doc position. “I am not completely sure what my end goal is, of course I would love to become group leader but I also enjoy teaching.” Surely, Thijs has proven that besides talent, hard work and ambition can really take you further in your future career.

Back to top.

 
 
Letter to myself
by Anita Ye

Dear 16-years old me,
 
As a teenager you tend to worry a lot about everything, and as a high schooler you’re particularly worried about your future career and the choices you should make. Let’s be honest, you are the worrying type of person and you will stay this way. Even six years later, you are thinking about doing a PhD or maybe become a clinical research associate or you might even do something more business related.
I cannot tell you about what will lie ten years ahead from now, but to relieve your worries a little bit, I can tell you this: After high school, your fascination for all the processes in the human body will turn into a fascination for disease pathogenesis, especially of cancer. You’ll do a bachelor in Biomedical Sciences in Utrecht. Here you will be active in your study association Mebiose: you will be editor of the magazine ‘Tight Junction’, year representative and part of the Bachelor advisory council. Then a master’s in Cancer, Stem cells & Developmental biology follows, where you will be member of the student committee. It might sound busy, but you’ll love it. Believe me.
 
So my message to you: You should stop worrying and enjoy your time as a student! Because this is the bridge between now and a possibly beautiful future in the broad field of life sciences. Yes, a lot of difficult choices need to be made, but many opportunities that come with them.   
 
Yours sincerely,
Anita Ye (22)

Back to top.


Everything is possible: profile of a foreign scientist

by Céline
Mahieu

 
Utrecht has become home for many foreign scientists, covering places from all over the world. Among them is Maria Rodriguez-Colman, an Argentinean postdoc at the department of Molecular Cancer Research of the UMC Utrecht.
 
Although initially she didn't consider moving around the world, after she finished her Bachelors in Biology in Argentina, Maria found a PhD position in Spain. What initially started as an adventure of 4 years, turned out to be a prolonged adventure, when she by chance found a postdoc position in Utrecht.
 
Here, Maria studies the metabolic profile of cancer cells and how the metabolic pathway can be target for cancer treatments. Because cancer cells replicate so fast, these cells are dependent on easy fuels like glucose and glutamine, which can be converted into energy really fast. The aim of the project is to find compounds that target metabolic enzymes in such a way, that the tumour doesn't have access to easy fuel anymore and the cancer cells either stop dividing or die. The used compounds are not very aggressive and really cheap, which is obviously a great benefit in light of the expanding health costs.
 
What Maria really appreciates from her experience in the UMC Utrecht, is that you can ask yourself any kind of question and that there is always someone with whom you can collaborate: there are no limitations in what you can ask and what kind of experiments you can plan. "You have to challenge yourself, be open for collaborations and anything that it takes to do your work as good as possible. Face the difficult questions and there are many people willing to help you to look for ways to answer these questions. Everything is possible."

Back to top.


 
 
If you're going to San Francisco...
by Céline Mahieu
 

By the time you read this I'll be gone. There is only one week left before I take off for my second internship. Something I have wanted for almost 4 years is now coming close and nerves are kicking in. I found the perfect lab, great housing and even a bike. From February on, I'll be living the San Francisco life.

Unfortunately it ain't as simple as it sounds. Loads of paperwork and dozens of signatures are needed from the one person or the other. I was lucky enough to get help of many people who had endured the same as I was facing. Because whereas my mum still thinks I'm special and brave for going abroad, I know better. My facebook timeline constantly reminds me that I have almost no friends left in Utrecht. Everyone is abroad: pictures from the good weather in Barcelona and Singapore and snowy impressions of Boston and Edinburgh are dominating my timeline in a steady flow.
 
As it turns out, nowadays it is almost more special to stay at home than to stay abroad. The latter option is good for your resume, great fun, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. On paper it all sounds very cool. In reality, I don’t feel that cool anymore. Is everything arranged? Am I really well prepared? Do I know what I am starting? No, but just let's go for it. At least I'll be sure to wear some flowers in my hair.

Back to top.

 
Plan your graduation! and other tips from the Master's Administration Office
by Ella Bosch


If you are a student of Utrecht’s Graduate School of Life Sciences, then you probably know the Master's Administration Office (MAO), situated on the first storey of the Hijmans van den Bergh building, room 1.04. But few students know the people who work in the MAO and what it is they do all day.

The MAO is staffed by Carolien and Elena. Together they are responsible for - as the name “Master's Administration Office” gives away - the administrative work of most masters within the Graduate School of Life Sciences, all the way from application to graduation. In addition to that, they deal with all the emails that are sent to infobms@umcutrecht.nl.
 
“We receive a lot of email,” says Carolien. “Our inbox is massive; new emails arrive every minute.” Almost all come from either prospective students who send in an application or have questions about the application procedures, or from current students who have questions about grades, internships, or graduating. Often these questions are unneeded. “The answers to most questions can be found elsewhere, like in the new online Study Guide. We often refer students to it.”
 
In spite of the currently ongoing innovations, human contact stays important. Carolien and Elena see “pretty much all students”. These students come by during the MAO office hours: 12:30 to 13:30. Students are also welcome outside of opening hours as long as they make an appointment through email, or call ahead.
 
These personal appointments outside of office hours are especially useful when graduation is approaching. The Master Administration Office can help soon-to-be-graduates by sitting down and looking at the student’s progress, and the goals that still need to be met. To ask for this help in time is the main advice that Carolien and Elena would like to give students. “Arranging your graduation isn’t something you want to leave to the last minute. Save yourself that stress, and plan your graduation!”
 
IN BRIEF
- opening hours Master Administration Office: 12.30-13.30
- questions? find your answer in the new online Study Guide: here
- plan your graduation: make a personal appointment by sending an email to infobms@umcutrecht.nl

Back to top.



 
 
Watch out, or you’ll become a scientist
by Barbara Wiewel
 
Coen Maas never expected to become a researcher. Although he really liked the courses he took during his bachelor in Medical Biology, he always felt a huge gap between himself and 'the scientists'. Yet now he is assistant professor at the department of Clinical Chemistry and Haematology at the UMCU. I asked him how this happened.
“It happened so gradually, that I cannot pinpoint a certain event that changed my mind”, says Coen. He just became more and more familiar with the scientific work and world. “Suddenly, you look up and realize your view on something has completely changed.”
 
I recognize this, as my view on science has also gradually changed. From a romantic image maybe, of a dusty but genius professor in a lab or behind a desk (you know, the kind of mahogany desk that has leather on top) to the idea that science really is business. You need to convince people of the importance of your research and 'sell it'.
 
Coen agrees with this last image. “My masters in Fundamental Business has prepared me for the business element in science. A substantial but less apparent part of being a scientist is knowing how to present your research and how to create a certain image of yourself.”
 
An example of this is when Coen's group submitted an article to the open-access journal PLOS One with the main conclusion being that THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, has a certain beneficial effect. As the last thing he wanted was to become known as “the weed-professor”, (really sorry if all you'll remember from this article later on is the word weed-professor, but hey, what can you do), they wrote a highly technical abstract for the article. Read it and tell me this isn't serious research.

Back to top.

 
Women in science: Where are they?
by Susan Nieuwenhuize
 

The differences in profession between men and women has always been a highly debated topic. In business and politics men are overrepresented. The debate about gender equality in top jobs has recently gained momentum. So how are women doing in science?

It is not even that long ago that it was uncommon for the women to follow any sort of higher education. The first woman that to attend university lectures in the Netherlands was Ana Maria van Schurman in 1636 in our very own Utrecht. It is said that she had to sit behind a curtain to prevent the boys from getting distracted. Although she was extremely talented, due to her gender she was unfortunately not allowed to graduate.

 
The first woman to graduate from university was Aletta Jacobs. In 1876 she received the medical doctorate and became the first female physician.
 
Although it took quite some years, thanks to Aletta nowadays more girls than boys are applying to university in the Netherlands. This is mainly the consequence of the emergence of new study fields in communication and sociology, which are female-dominated.
 
In our case however, the Graduate School of Life Sciences and its preceding bachelor programmes such as Biology and Biomedical Sciences are comprised of an almost perfect 1:1 girl to boy ratio.
But what is the status of the representation of women in higher positions? When compared nationally, Utrecht is doing well. At the moment there are more female than male PhD students.
 
Further at the top however, the gender imbalance shifts to the other side, and the percentage of women in science rapidly declines. Only 16.3% of the Dutch professors are female, putting the Netherlands at the 4th place from the bottom on European level, only beating Belgium, Cyprus and Luxembourg.
 
Luckily for the ladies, there is definitely a change noticeable. For example, there exist several fellowships especially for women. Also, female professors are united in the Dutch Network of Female Professors to promote a proportional representation of women in science. Additionally they attempt to get a quota for female professors in the near future. The final statement concerning the chances for women in science is coming from one of their members Josee van Eijndhoven: “All the possibilities are definitely there, but the obstacles are just a little bit harder to overcome.”

Back to top.

 
 
UMC Utrecht strategy is about… YOU
by Chantal Mahieu
It is early 2015 and if you're anything like me, you have already given up on your New Year's Resolutions. But the people of the UMC Utrecht have not given up on theirs yet, though! Over the next year and the four years that follow, they hope to improve health care within the UMC Utrecht with the project Connecting U.

The UMCU always works according to a certain strategy to innovate and improve their service. The last 5 years this strategy was referred to as UMC Utrecht 3.0. This included
6 research programs and the main focus of these was the patient. Connecting U will be the strategy for next 5 years.
 
Connecting U is focused on connecting people in health care, scientific research, companies and others to improve patient care. The objective is to use a more personalized approach, which goes well together with the emerging personalized medical care.
 
The goals of this project are to enhance the social impact of work and knowledge generated in UMCU and to improve the connection of the UMCU with patients, medical personnel and companies. Everyone involved has to contribute to achieve this. So hopefully together we will make this change. In that way the UMCU will not give up their resolutions as fast as most of us.

Back to top.

How to accidentally become a scientist

by Chantal van de Ven
 
The combination of a lot of small decisions can determine where you end up in life. You can set a goal and make deliberate choices to achieve that goal. However, you probably end up somewhere by circumstance and luck. If you follow the conventional path you will probably enter an academic research career.

I always made my choices based on my feelings rather than to pursue a certain goal in life. As many of us I was interested in the human body. That is why I chose to study Biomedical Science.

Already before I started, me and my friends wondered what we could do after our studies. When asking this question, the answer was mostly: “There are so many opportunities and jobs, you will see.”

However, after 5 years of studying these ‘opportunities’ are still mostly unclear to me. The master mainly prepares you for a PhD, however if you aren’t interested in staying in academic research the opportunities are rather vague. Maybe that is the reason most MSc graduates start a PhD. It is the most logical next step. However, eventually only a few of us will stay in academic research and eventually most get a job at a company.

Although I still don’t have a certain goal, I’m sure I do not want to proceed the usual way and become a Doctor. I deliberately choose to enter the undisclosed world of companies, circumstance and hopefully some luck will lead the way!

Back to top.


 
Open Access: To be or not to be?
by Anita Ye
 
Secretary of state Sander Dekker (Education, Culture and Science) wants Open Access to be the standard of scientific publications. ‘Knowledge from publications should be available for free. My goal is that all journals will become Open Access in 2024. When there is not enough development in this area after two years, I will propose a law with the minister of Education, Culture and Science, obligating Open Access publication for all scientific research.’
Currently universities and scientific institutes pay millions of euros for subscriptions to journals from publishers, to have access to scientific publications. Considering that a great part of the funding for most research comes from public funding, asking for money to make data available sounds a little bit strange at the least.
 
By publishing in Open Access journals, data and findings will be available for everyone. This can be implemented in education and research, so everything can be as up to date as possible. This way research could be improved. Accessible articles makes getting more citations more likely for researchers and affiliated institutes, since other people can actually read it. Of course money needs to be earned, so instead of asking money for subscriptions, authors pay an author fee for publication to cover the publishers’ costs in case of Open Access publishing. Because in our current publishing system Open Access is not encouraged, Open Access journals have a lower impact factor which is a major downside for many researchers.
 
Elsevier, one of the biggest scientific publishers, refuses to comply with Secretary Dekker. This has led to failing of negotiations between university libraries and Elsevier, that just recently started again by extending their subscription for one year. Springer, a big German publisher, has agreed to make all publications Open Access with Dutch researchers and affiliation to the Netherlands. The UK is also planning to get more Open Access publications. Perhaps Open Access journals could be the start of more changes in publishing, where the quality of each individual paper is valued instead of the impact factor of the journal it is published in.
 
For more information about Open Access and updates go to http://www.openaccess.nl/.

Back to top.

Agenda
• 19 February 2015     LS Seminar RMTM   • 18 June 2015    LS Seminar BISM
• 19 March 2015 LS Seminar ENVB   • 19 June 2015 Education Seminar
• 16 April 2015 LS Seminar CSDB     More info will follow
• 21 May 2015 LS Seminar NSCN  
     
       
         Back to top
Universiteitsweg 98
3584 CG UTRECHT
www.uu.nl/lifesciences
masterforlifemagazine@umcutrecht.nl
Twitter UU_GSLS
 
 
Change data
Unsubcribe