The Leipzig experience; a student's tale – Københavns Universitet

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04. maj 2016

The Leipzig experience; a student's tale

I have through my time of studying tried to focus my professionalism within biomedicine and research. I have always wanted to find out if research was of special interest to me. Through different courses I have developed keen interest in subjects as endocrinology, pharmacology, physiology as well as working with and developing animal models.

Stumbled upon the possibility

I have a burning passion for topics as obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, brown and beige adipose tissue, and not least, the interaction between these topics. So when I accidentally stumbled upon the possibility to get a research internship in obesity at the Integrated Research and Treatment Center (IFB) Adiposity Diseases in Leipzig, I knew that this was my chance to get some first-hand experience in the clinical-scientific field of research and even within a topic of my interest.

I applied for the research group of Dr. Klöting because her project “animal models in obesity”, really drew my attention, looking into the complex pathogenesis, genetics and mechanisms of obesity with the aim to identify genes that are involved in adiposity regulation and metabolism. Besides joining a research group, the internship would also consist of an accompanied theoretical teaching program with weekly sessions held by IFB project leaders, and this would be a good way to be enlightened with an overview of the many aspects of obesity research, so I didn’t think twice before sending an application. Beyond my expectations I got the internship and I quickly realized that I was going to Germany for 2 months, living in a city I knew nothing about; pretty intimidating but most of all really exciting.  

Leipzig for beginners

Without much previous knowledge of Leipzig, I had to get some help from Google. After a quick search, I realised that Leipzig seemed like an interesting city with an exciting cultural history, being part of the previously DDR and housing some of the biggest musicians and poets.

Getting all the practical aspects arranged was a bit overwhelming, because I had to finish a major exam before leaving, but luckily it all worked out for me and I managed to find a really nice room through the website Airbnb. The room was in a shared apartment with four other German students and placed just a five-minute walk from the laboratory I was going to work at. I would say the most challenging part of arranging this internship was to fit the internship into my study plan, but with help from the Student and Career Guidance of my university it all worked out and as soon as the paperwork was done I was ready to go. 

Once landed in Leipzig

Fast forward, I found myself in Leipzig and the first day had come. I was of course a bit anxious, because I’ve had all these expectations to the internship and they were soon to be realised.

The internship was kick-started with a seminar about an insight into the stigma research of obesity held by Dr. Sikorski. It was a really good beginning, and it gave an overview of the many dilemmas and multifactorial influences in the world of obesity. This seminar also offered a good opportunity to meet the other interns, and discover that we were in the same boat, because we didn’t really know anyone in Leipzig, this facilitated quick bonding. After the seminar, it was time to meet our project groups and I was privileged to be guided to my group, by our internship supervisor.

After a short introduction I was showed around in the research facility and introduced to my colleagues. The first couple of weeks was based on molecular practice in the lab. I was quickly established in the everyday routine and the involvement in the project and the responsibility I got quickly increased.

The group I’m working with and especially the lab technician Viola is really helpful and everyone is taking a lot of time to answer all my questions and explaining me everything about the protocols and equipment in the laboratory. The only premise is that I ask and I find that really rewarding. Throughout this internship I’ve gained knowledge and practical experience with different types of PCR, western blotting, ELISA, flow cytometry, In-situ hybridization, tissue extraction from mice, as well as routine work with basic handling and procedures with primary cell cultures using aseptic techniques, performing transfection and knock-out on fat cells.

I’ve also got an insight into the breeding protocols in the creation of transgenic mice and an overview of the study setups, with regards to backcrossing strategies used to identify novel candidate genes.

Outcome

The most valuable outcome of this internship have definitely been to get first-hand practical experience, because one thing is to know the theoretical background and read the articles, but a whole other dimension is to actually do it yourself and work in the lab. Right now I’m working on my own little project which is really great. It gives me some responsibility and challenges which I find really rewarding, and of course there are trials and error, but that’s also part of it.

Besides my work in the laboratory I have been privileged to listen to a lot of really exciting talks from a lot of admirable people, which are very passionate about their research projects, giving me an insight into the many facets of the obesity research. I’ve also got the opportunity to watch a bariatric surgery performed by Dr. Dietrich and I must say he has some serious skills!

All in all, this internship has given me a deeper insight into the many challenges and opportunities in the field of obesity research. Finding and developing useful animal models in obesity, with good translational value, is important, and doing so would contribute to a better insight into the extremely complex and multifactorial pathogenesis of obesity and help detect candidate genes which are associated with obesity, and hopefully translating this knowledge to humans, would be really valuable in the fight against the global epidemic of obesity. This internship has encouraged me to continue pursuing a career within biomedicine and research and has only fuelled my passion. Besides all of the academic work I’ve also had the chance to visit the Leipzig Zoo, concerts with classical music, Leipzig Buchmesse, tried some the good bars, coffee of course and a lot of other things. Leipzig is a wonderful city with a lot to offer. 

Conclusion

So if you, like me, are having thoughts about pursuing a career within research the MS pro research internship offers an unique opportunity to get your passion for research clarified. The only premise is that you are willing to learn and ask a lot of question. The worst thing that could happen is that you figure out this field is not for you and even that conclusion could also turn out to be a good experience, because we should all hopefully end up doing something we are passionate about and so far I am on the right path, all thanks to this internship.

Bror Tobiasen