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Testimonial of Nathalie Huldi

University of Basel, Research Group Jean Pieters

Why did you apply for the Research Summer program?
I wanted to find out how it is to work in a lab and how the exciting discoveries that the professors tell us about in lectures actually come about. I am so very glad that I did this internship, as it completely changed my view of things and possibly also my future career plans. 

In what way?
I find studying biology very interesting but had always imagined that researchers have a very solitary job. However, through the Research Summer program, I discovered that I really enjoy lab work. All the same, as I enjoy interacting with people a lot, I am starting a new degree in medicine from next semester. Yet, following this internship, I can even imagine combining clinical work with research after completing my medical studies. This is incidentally what the other medical students participating in the Research Summer also plan to do. 

Why did you choose Jean Pieters’ group?
In view of studying medicine, I chose the professors from Infection Biology as a priority in my application, as their research is strongly focused on illnesses and as such they work at the interface of medicine. My first choice was Jean Pieters’ laboratory as he does research in the field of immunology. 

What are you working on?
My supervisor and I investigate the molecule coronin 1 in immune cells. I am very enthusiastic about this as the research is very new and has enormous potential. Recently our laboratory found out that the body’s acceptance of transplanted organs is greater in mice in which this molecule is not expressed. Acceptance is seen even when the transplanted organs come from unsuitable donors. Moreover, this transplant acceptance is selective as the immune system of coronin 1 deficient mice can still fight actively against infections. Also, with autoimmune diseases, which are becoming increasingly prevalent, the suppression of this molecule has a great therapeutic effect.

In concrete terms, how would you describe your daily work routine?
Very variable. My supervisor had just initiated a new research project when I joined the lab which means I was able to be a part of it from the very beginning. Initially we cultured E. coli bacteria on agar plates and then isolated plasmid DNA from them, which we subsequently introduced into immune cells coming from rats and mice. We are just finishing these experiments and will find out whether the transfection was successful. On Friday, I will present our findings at the Research Summer Symposium and I am really looking forward to sharing our results with the others, and, of course, to hearing about their research projects as well. 

Would you recommend the Research Summer to others?
Absolutely. In the first couple of weeks, I admit I was quite overwhelmed as everything was so new. But as I said, I enjoy my project very much and now towards the end, my view on scientific research has changed completely. On top of this, I was very lucky to have gotten a fantastic supervisor. Likewise, I enjoyed getting to know my colleagues in the lab and the other students of the program with whom I have made new friendships, which I think will last forever.