Universiteit Utrecht   Universiteit Utrecht
Graduate School of Life Sciences  
Graduate School of Life Sciences
Master for Life Magazine
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 Connie Engelberts and facilitated by de Graduates School of Life Sciences.

•   Graduate School news •   One step away from starting a PhD
•   5 tips for getting published as a student •   International networking: have you got the guts?
•   Taste it before you waste it! •   What the heart has to do with the gut (and 3D printing)
•   Shooting crystals with X-rays: my research on proteins •   Studying without student funding: the new system of student finances 
Making plans and pursuing dreams Agenda

Graduate School news

Research Project Market
Are you arranging your research project and do you want to meet UU and UMCU research groups where you can perform your project? On Tuesday January 12th from 17:00-20:00h the research project market will be organised in the Kroonluchter. Want an impression of last year? You can find a it here.

Career Services
In order to prepare yourself for a smooth career start it is important to start exploring your possibilities and improving your so called 21st century skills already during your Master's. Visit Career Services and find out what your next step will be. Start for instance with the career check. A test which provides you with an action plan and offers advice on what to do during your studies. Want to improve your skills? Join one of the workshops. If you have more questions or if you would like to talk to someone about your possibilities, contact your Career Officer.

Introducing Life Sciences Student Committee 2016
Are you a GSLS MSc student and interested in organising a big social event for all new GSLS students in September 2016? Sign up via email and please indicate your name, phone number and MSc programme.

Student representation
Problems, complaints, questions about your Master's programme? Contact the Life Sciences Representatives.

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5 tips for getting published as a student
Every student has heard stories about students starting their internships in labs and ending their internship as author or co-author of a Nature, Science or Cell paper. These stories are usually told almost as if they are myths, being passed from student to student during lunch or in lecture hall benches. However, these stories are not myths, and students do end up authoring or co-authoring papers. Even in high impact journals. Here are five tips that can help you to realise this dream.
By Martijn Rotteveel

1. Look for a good lab
The first tip is perhaps also the most obvious. If you set out to become an author or co-author during your internship look for labs that have a consistently high publishing output. Also check if different members of the lab are listed as first author, this indicates that credit is fairly given to who earns it.

2. Carefully pick your supervisor
The type of supervisor you get greatly determines your chances of getting your name on a paper. A starting PhD student will not be likely to publish anytime soon. The best chances of being an author or co-author you get by having a senior PhD student or a post doc as a supervisor.

3. Take charge of your project
As an academic, it is logical that you display some oversight and perspective in your project. If you wish your project to become a published paper you will have to take active charge of your project. Set goals for yourself and shape your project and experiments into something that can be published.

4. Clearly communicate your wish
Even though you as a student might not be high on the publishing priority list you may still communicate your wish to publish. If you display aptitude and motivation, the sky is the limit.

5. Don’t be disappointed
Publishing early in your career as a scientist is still a rare occurrence. Even though you try your best and work hard, getting a paper published as a student is still largely a matter of luck. And even if you don’t publish, your internship will still be helping you on your way to a beautiful and shining publishing record.

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Taste it before you waste it!
“On average, the Dutch consumer wastes 47 kilos of solid food each year, which amounts to 150 € per person.” – The Netherlands Nutrition Centre informs. How crazy is that? Let’s try to put in perspective these numbers and shed some light into the matter presenting some encouraging activists groups who are trying to diminish this huge madness.
By Mario Diaz

A third of the whole food production is thrown away. In the Netherlands, this is between 1.7 and 2.6 billion kilos. Dairy products, bread, vegetables and fruit account for more than a half of the total food waste. While this is happening, there is a huge number of people who are not able to afford buying food in the supermarkets.

Being worried about these problems I ran into the “Taste Before You Waste” initiative. This Amsterdam-based movement run by volunteers tries to raise awareness about food waste and ways to prevent it. They collect 250 kg per week from different stores in Amsterdam and an organic farmer from Flevoland and they distribute this food to people on the streets, free markets and so on. If you are thinking that Amsterdam is quite far away there is good news for you. Taste Before You Waste has another core of volunteers here in Utrecht and they are looking for people to help them!

The high industry standards about the shape, colour, size of the food are overwhelming. In addition to this, the overproduction and the non-sustainable marketing strategies have led to the throwing away of a lot of food. Taste Before You Waste try to raise awareness on this problem amongst small shops in Utrecht (from bakeries to groceries stores) and many of them agree to collaborate. Normally, a regular pick up day is arranged with the shop and this food is carried to the people who need it the most.

If you want to do something about it and be part of the solution, contact this amazing initiative. They are very welcoming!

Facebook: Taste Before You Waste – Utrecht

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Shooting crystals with X-rays: my research on proteins
We are all a collection of bacteria, wrapped up in a bit of human. We carry more bacterial cells in our gut than human cells in our entire body, so it should be no surprise that these unicellular friends play a very important role in our life. This was recently confirmed by the discovery that an indigenous tribe in Peru might have the bacteria in their gut to thank for their lack of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
By Hugo van den Hoek

Hugo van den Hoek is a student from Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences, currently finishing his internship at the Crystal & Structural Chemistry group, a protein x-ray crystallography lab.

Protein x-ray crystallography?
“That means if we get lucky, we get to shoot protein crystals with the most extreme x-ray sources (particle accelerators) in the world. We do that to get an understanding of the protein’s 3D-structure and therefore the mechanisms by which it works.”

How did you become interested in biochemical sciences as a whole?
“I got a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry, but I’m fascinated by many fields in science. Mankind knows a lot, ranging from the very small (atoms) to the mind-bogglingly large (the universe). However, there is still a lot left to discover. The science of life in particular interests me, since life’s processes are beautifully complex, elegantly shaped by evolution. There is still a lot that we don’t yet know about it.“

Where does your interest for protein structures arise from?
“I find it intriguing that a very subtle change in the molecular structure of a protein can lead to radical effects such as diseases on a much larger biological scale. I like to investigate how this works by starting at the smallest scale possible. For this we mainly use x-ray crystallography, which is a very powerful technique. The downside is that you need to make delicate crystals of highly purified protein, which can be quite a cumbersome process (I didn’t get any crystals during my project, so I used alternative approaches). However, my colleagues and I prefer to see this as a nice challenge rather than a drawback. The reward is that in the end, you get to use very cool techniques to find out how proteins and life work.”

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Making plans and pursuing dreams
At the end of high school I knew exactly what my career was going to look like: I was going to study veterinary sciences in Utrecht, spend some time in Africa, then start my career in the Netherlands, and live happily ever after. However, the admission procedure of veterinary sciences did not care about my plans and dreams; I didn’t get in.
By Lisanne van Woerden

I had to let go of my dreams and make other plans. I chose to study biology and try to get admitted to veterinary sciences the next year. But I actually loved to study biology, to learn so much about how nature works. My plan was changed again and I decided to keep studying biology. I still wanted to work with animals so I focused on animal behaviour. The Master's programme environmental biology, track behavioural ecology, fitted perfectly with my plan. I wanted to research animal welfare, and especially improve the welfare of farm animals.

That part of the plan at least worked, at the moment I am in the middle of my first internship at the department of farm animal health. However, I’m thinking about changing my plan again. Animal behaviour has so many interesting directions, for example animal cognition. For now, my dream is to research cognitive abilities in animals.

Where my career is headed now is very different from how I dreamed and planned it at the end of high school, but that doesn’t matter. Maybe I’ll have to change my plan again, but I’m sure I will end up doing something I really love.

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One step away from starting a PhD
Sjors van der Horst has finished his Master's degree at the Graduate School of Life Sciences one year ago. He has written a PhD research proposal and he can’t wait to start. Unfortunately, no funding is yet available for his proposed project. Here, Sjors relates about life after finishing your Master's.
By Dorrit de Jong

Sjors grew up in a small town called Cothen which is, according to Sjors, “relatively simple with down-to-earth inhabitants”. But after finishing school he went studying Life Sciences at the university of applied science in the big city of Utrecht. In those times, he had sometimes seen “technicians who let the interpretation of data up to their supervisors and only performed experiments.” This is not how Sjors thought of his future in science, which is why he decided to get a masters degree in Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences. Sjors had always been a good student, his two internships were successful and both might even provide him with a publication in the near future. So he wanted some challenge: to write a proposal for a self designed PhD project.

After he became Master of Science, Sjors submitted his proposal to an NWO open call and became fourth while only three grants were available. He also tried to apply for the EPS graduate school, an institute providing both training and funding for PhD candidates. Unfortunately, Sjors was rejected for the training since they found him already too experienced: he already wrote a proposal. He submitted to an EPS open call anyway, but it was only granted to candidates who did follow the EPS training. That was all quite upsetting.

In the meantime, Sjors’s supervisor had a lot of work for which he could use Sjors’s help. While his second NWO submission effort is being reviewed, Sjors has been working as a lab assistant. He doesn’t dislike that so far, but his heart lies with his own project. Moreover, this is only until February. “The uncertainty is really tough. I hope to know whether my latest NWO submission is granted before my work here is done. Otherwise I have to find a new employer, but I can’t tell them I will leave again when my proposal gets funding. I would probably look for a different PhD project that is already funded. It won’t be on the subject I chose, but I must stay open to new things!”

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International networking: have you got the guts?
Last fall I went to a symposium on gut-brain interactions in Manhattan, NYC. I went there with my dad (professor in psychology). He introduced us to scientists from all over the world: ‘I’m the brain, she’s the guts’. I can tell you, it does not take a lot of guts to attend an international symposium. If you have the opportunity seize it with both hands!
By Tara Brosschot

I was very lucky to have the opportunity to visit this symposium. The talks were really interesting, very in-depth and on the edge of current knowledge. The speakers had amazing presenting skills and their research findings were incredible (but they succeeded to make them sound credible).  There were also some good jokes. The subject of fecal transplantation, a ‘new’ therapeutic intervention that is gaining popularity lately, was a never-ending source of hilarity. Now I know, for example, that one should never order Yellow Dragon Soup in a Chinese restaurant. In ancient oriental times this was the euphemism for oral therapy with human fecal suspension.

But what I enjoyed the most were probably the breaks. Not just because of the tasty food and beverages (organic popcorn in five different flavors…) but also because of the chance to talk to scientists from all over the world. I mostly talked to the psychologists. They felt like their society should take note of this so-called ‘gut feeling’. They were eager to insert the microbiologic aspect into their research. And they thought I was the right person to talk to on this symposium. As a student in Life Sciences, with a particular interest in the role of  microbiota in the balance between health and disease, I was the missing link between the specialised gastroenterology doctors and the scientists purely studying the brain.

There we were, discussing how we should combine our knowledge. While talking, one woman looked at my nameplate and wrote my name down. Did she not notice the BSc behind it? Apparently she didn’t mind as she sent me an email the next day. She thanked me for my time. And she would like to encourage me using anxiety as an extra variable in my future experiments with mice. Not sure if my supervisor would agree if I start a side-project like this. How are you supposed to frighten a mouse anyway? I feel like I still know so little. To be taken so serious feels a bit unbelievable. But to be part of this global scientific society feels so inspiring! It made me very excited about my future in research.

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What the heart has to do with the gut (and 3D printing)
Dr. Joost Sluijter is associate professor in the University Medical Center Utrecht in a lab of 15 researchers in regenerative medicine, focusing on stimulating cardiac repair. One of the unique technologies they use in this modern field is cardiac 3D printing, a technique that comes with promises but also problems.
By Lisanne van Woerden & Dorrit de Jong

Joost's lab has multiple ongoing projects. With the aid of the 3D printer, heart tissues are generated for in vitro studies, sometimes derived from patients own cells, carrying important mutations of interest. But his lab is also trying to generate tissues for in vivo use, tissues specifically designed to repair all kinds of heart damage. These tissues consist of live cells and carrier material (biomaterial) that are meant to fuse with the heart. This can be best visualised as a “plaster for the heart”, says Joost.

Regenerative medicine is a fairly new discipline. When we asked Joost whether this had any complications, he responded that it is “incredibly difficult”. In his lab they usually first have to deal with technical problems before they can think about the research questions. For example, keeping the tissues alive that come from the 3D printer. Also, regular 3D printing on tv looks very smooth, but cells for cardiac repair have to be embedded in soft materials and therefor printing live tissue is very different, it comes with a whole new set of problems.

When asked about the future of his research Joost said “5 years ago we thought our plaster would be on the market in 5 years”. Unfortunately the plaster material doesn’t fuse with the heart well enough yet. However, Joost is confident they will find the perfect material in the near future. But he also thinks there might be a future in a temporary plaster that doesn’t fuse but falls off after the heart is healed.

Joost's path to the succesful career he has now, already started in his college years when his dad had a heart attack. “Two weeks later, I had a class about that subject. That started my interest on the subject, but at that moment I never had a clear visual  how my career would look like. I just followed my gut feelings and took opportunities of interest that came by. That’s what I advise to all students.”

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Studying without student funding: the new system of student finances
Anyone who started with a new study in September had to face it, no more funding from government. We saw it coming for a long time, but the new system “het sociale leenstelsel” really is here now. What has changed since last year and how do students experience the new system?
By Lisanne van Woerden

Jacobine is one of the students that had to adapt to the changes in students funding. She started her masters pharmacy this September. Last years, during her Bachelor's, she still received study finances every month, but this year she has to study without extra money. She says about this: “Not much has changed, except that I now loan the amount of money I received last year”. She did start working though, something she didn’t do during her bachelors, to make sure she doesn’t need to loan more than is necessary. Paying her study debt back also doesn’t worry her, the conditions for paying everything back aren’t that severe.

With the new changes the government wants to save millions of euros, which can then be used to improve the quality of education. They want to achieve this by removing the basic funding students received every month. Instead, students will have to loan this money. On the upside: the additional funding does continue and even increases a bit. This means that students with parents that earn less than €46.000, will receive up to €365 per month. And there is another plus, students can keep their OV chip card.

A future problem however, may come up when students have to do an internship. With a full time internship there probably will not be any time left to work. Another problem Jacobine foresees is the possibility to study abroad. With this new system there probably isn’t any money left to spend on an expensive trip abroad.

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•   January 12th Research Project Market
•   January 21st LS Seminar RMT & Biofab
•   February 8th Introduction Day February 2016 Starters
•   February 18th LS seminar BoD - Foreign Excursion Board Mebiose
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