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Vet student's blog: My Leipzig internship

When Bror stumbled upon the possibility to research obesity in Leipzig, he took it. Here is his account

My name is Bror Tobiasen. I am 24 years old and study veterinary medicine at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences. During my course of studies I have tried to focus on my qualifications within the fields of biomedicine and research. I have always wanted to find out if a career in research was of special interest to me. Through different courses I have developed a keen interest in subjects such as endocrinology, pharmacology, physiology, as well as working with and developing animal models. I am very much interested in topics like obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, brown and beige adipose tissue, and also, the interaction between these topics. So when I accidentally stumbled upon the possibility to participate in a research internship in obesity at the Integrated Research and Treatment Center (IFB) AdiposityDiseases 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.

Click here for more info on the Ms Pro research internships.

I applied for the research group of Dr. Nora Klöting-Blüher because her project “Animal models in obesity”, really drew my attention: It approaches 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 accompanying theoretical teaching program with weekly sessions, held by IFB project leaders, which would be a good way to overview many aspects of obesity research. So I didn’t think twice before sending an application.

Starting the internship

I was lucky and got the internship and quickly realized that I was going to be in Germany for two months, living in a city I knew nothing about; pretty intimidating but most of all really exciting. Without much previous knowledge of Leipzig, I had to get some help from Google. After a quick search, I realized that Leipzig seemed like an interesting city with an exciting cultural history: it was a part of the former GDR and was home to 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 via a housing-website. The room was in a shared apartment with four other German students and located just five minutes away 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 some 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.

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

Lab work and solo projects

The internship kickstarted with a seminar about stigmatization-research in obesity held by Dr. Claudia Luck-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 to discover that we all were in the same boat. Since we didn’t really know anyone in Leipzig, this facilitated quick bonding. Following the seminar, it was time to meet our project groups. After a short introduction I was showed around in the research facility and introduced to my colleagues.

“In the end we all should do something we are passionate about and I now know that I am on the right path, all thanks to this internship.”

After a short introduction I was showed around in the research facility and introduced to my colleagues. The first couple of weeks my work was mainly on molecular practices in the lab. I quickly became familiar with the everyday routine, and the involvement in the project as well as my responsibilities increased fast. The group I’m working with, and especially the lab technician Viola, were really helpful and everyone took a lot of time to answer all my questions and explain everything about the protocols and equipment in the laboratory. The only premise was that I had to ask, which I find really rewarding. Throughout this internship I’ve gained knowledge and practical experience with different laboratory techniques (various types of PCR, western blotting, ELISA, flow cytometry, in-situ hybridization, tissue extraction from mice) I also got familiar with the routine works, such as the basic handling and procedures with primary cell cultures using aseptic techniques, performing gene modifications (transfection and knock-out) on fat cells.

I also gained insight into the breeding protocols of the creation of transgenic mice and an overview of the study setups, with regards to backcrossing strategies, which are used to identify novel candidate genes. The most valuable result of this internship was definitely to be able to get first-hand practical experience. Because it is one thing to know the theoretical background and read the articles, but a whole other thing 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, of course there are trials and error, but that’s also part of it.

Following your interests

Besides my work in the laboratory I was privileged to listen to some really exciting talks from a lot of admirable people, who are very passionate about their research projects. These have given me insights into the many facets of obesity research. I also got the opportunity to watch a bariatric surgery performed by Prof. Dr. Arne Dietrich, and I must say, I was very impressed by his work.

All in all, this internship has given me deeper knowledge of 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 – hopefully translating this knowledge to humans, which would be really valuable in the fight against the global epidemic of obesity. This internship has encouraged me to continue to pursue a career in biomedicine and research and has only fuelled my passion. Besides the academic work I also had the chance to visit the Leipzig Zoo, concerts with classical music, and the book fair of Leipzig. I tried some good bars, got coffee of course and did a lot of other things. Leipzig is a wonderful city, with a lot to offer.

So if you, like me, are thinking about pursuing a career in research, the MS Pro research internship offers an unique opportunity to test your passion for research. The only premise is that you are willing to learn and to ask a lot of questions. The worst thing that can happen is that you figure out that obesity research is not for you, and even that conclusion could turn out to be a good experience. In the end we all should do something we are passionate about and I now know that I am on the right path, all thanks to this internship.

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