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Interview with Artan Ademi

Getting to the bottom of things is something he has always loved doing. That is why Artan Ademi was drawn to basic research and to the Biozentrum. Now he is doing a Masters in Cell and Developmental Biology in Prof. Anne Spang’s lab. In Basel, he is already well connected, thanks to the colleagues with whom he shares an apartment, the team spirit in his research group and his Unisport activities. 

What fascinates you about molecular biology?
Learning to more deeply understand the world around us and how life develops. I love to get to the bottom of things, so to do basic research seemed a natural choice. I have always been fascinated by biology, particularly in regard to humans. Animals and plants were less my thing, although I have to admit that the lectures in this field were also very interesting. Nevertheless, I could not imagine doing research in this direction. But molecular biology suits me perfectly. That’s why I came to Basel to the Biozentrum.

What was the most interesting for you in your bachelor’s course?
Definitely the block courses in the third year. On the one hand, to experience for the first time how research actually functions and get the chance to find out which research fields you enjoy more. On the other hand, I found that the contact with the assistants, that is the PhD students and postdocs, was very valuable for me. You have a vague idea about how it is to do a masters or PhD but, in the block course, I could get first hand information from them and talk with them about my career plans. 

What is the major difference between doing bachelor studies and a masters?
The masters is about applying what has been learnt. In the block course, the assistants know, of course, what results to expect from each of the experiments and always have a backup ready in case something doesn’t go as planned. In a masters, you, however, really investigate something not yet explored. This means that you have to continually adapt your experiments and work out what you should do next. 

How did you choose the topic for your master’s project?
I am basically interested in a wide range of subjects. So, I wrote to many different labs. Finally I was successful through a platform for biology students, where professors from the Biozentrum, and also the Friedrich Miescher Institute and the Department of Biomedicine, can upload their open masters positions and projects. Anne Spang had advertised three positions and I found them all interesting. After discussions with her, one of them became mine. 

And what are you researching now?
The correct distribution of proteins and mRNA molecules is vital to a cell’s survival. We are aiming to understand the mechanisms determining their localization, as this will provide important information for developmental and stem cell biology. A PhD student had previously already investigated how they are arranged during cell division prior to daughter cell cleavage. I am now continuing this project and study the behavior of certain genes in yeast cells, which he had not yet looked at.

From where do you get the input for your experiments? 
For one, there is my supervisor. Although he has a different project, he also works with yeast and can show me experimental procedures. Most of all, however, I can discuss with Anne directly. This happens quite spontaneously, whenever it is needed. Just this morning I bumped into her and she took an hour to look at microscope images that I had taken yesterday and to discuss next steps. 

How does the teamwork function in other respects in the group?
We have our lab meetings every Friday morning, where each from the group presents what they have done during the week. It’s not about getting a pat on the back for successful work but rather to also look at what didn’t function. It could be, after all, that a colleague’s idea might put you onto the right track. We also have a meeting together with the other groups on our floor on Wednesday morning. Feedback from people who are working on something completely different can also prove to be very valuable.

You moved to Basel to study. How did the start go for you?
Very well. I knew that I wanted to move into a shared apartment, to get to know other people quickly. Then, of course, I know many people from my bachelor course, with whom I still have contact and now in my current group it is also super. We regularly eat lunch together and on occasion also go the the Rhine. And then there’s Unisport. I play volleyball and dodge ball. I enjoy team sports. 

Do you have a tip for prospective students?
Yes, to start thinking about the path you want to take early on. Although I have not decided anything yet and I am only in the first third of my masters, I speak a lot with my colleagues in the lab. I am very grateful to learn about their experience. For instance, they suggested that if I am interested in a PhD subject, to perhaps first do practical work in the area to find out if it really suits me. After all, a PhD takes around four years. They also advised me to do an internship in industry to get to know both sides before I take the final decision.