24 October 2019

Hi, I’m Mariya Chernyavska, I am Ukrainian and I am a PhD candidate at the Biochemistry Department at RIMLS, theme Nanomedicine. 

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Can you tell us something about your child years? 

"As far as I remember my childhood, I was dreaming about becoming a scientist in the field of Biology, so my current job is my childhood dream which came true! I was raised in a family of medical doctors, and I was always interested in health and disease. Back then I knew that I didn’t want to become an MD, but rather a great inventor of new medicines. I did a lot of things besides school: gymnastics, dancing, art courses… But I always kept this idea of “when I grow up I will be a scientist and will make a new therapy for an uncurable disease”. Also, when I was 9, my aunt gave me a microscope from a real (!) lab as a present, so I think I explored everything in my house and outside of it under that microscope."  

What was your previous academic training, where did you study and why that study?

 "I started with doing a Bachelor in Management in Ukraine. I was 16 when going to the university, and back then, unfortunately, the career choice had to be rather pragmatic, since my home area did not offer training or career perspective in biomedical sciences. Having obtained my BSc. diploma, I found an opportunity to go abroad, so I started a new Bachelor degree in Germany, this time in Applied Biology. Then I came to Nijmegen as an exchange student and, while being busy with an internship, I applied for a Master program. I choose MSc. Biomedical Sciences because it offered a wide range of courses to choose from, and a rather flexible study plan in general. And also, because I got a Radboudumc Study fund and Radboud Scolarship, which allowed me to stay here and continue academic training towards the dream job." 

The RIMLS motto is: ‘Today’s molecules for tomorrow’s medicine’. What does this mean for you?

"The RIMLS motto very nicely emphasizes the translational aspect of our research. For example, in my PhD project, I am developing a new cancer immunotherapy approach, based on the antibody isotype which is not yet used in the clinic. So potentially, the results of my research (“today’s molecules”) could be translated in a new kind of therapy – “tomorrow’s medicine”. I personally enjoy working with the idea in mind that whatever knowledge we create today in our research labs, may benefit patients in the nearest future."

Who is your great example as scientists? And why?

"I find Antonie van Leeuwenhoek an inspiring example of a great scientist. It was probably also the first scientist I learned about in Biology school classes. A “father of Microbiology”, he was self-taught and ended up inventing one of the greatest tools in Biology – a microscope, driven by his interest in lensmaking and glass processing. It always fascinated me how scientists worked several hundreds years ago and came up with such significant discoveries."  

Which research discovery that you have made has made you most proud?

"I would like to believe that my discovery is still coming. At the moment, I am focusing on gaining and creating more knowledge in the field and building upon the results of my previous work: with my colleagues and supervisors, I developed a tumor microenvironment-on-a-chip system where a gene was delivered with adenovirus. And I am happy to contribute to the scientific progress of our group and institute in general, even with little things. I think it’s something a beginner scientist can be proud of." 

Given unlimited finance what experiment would you perform?

"I can’t think of one specific magic experiment which could considerably move us forward giving unlimited finance. Instead, I believe that competence, talent and passion of scientist are important to make a breakthrough. So, if I had unlimited finance, I would probably expand the team of talented researchers to work together on cancer immunotherapy development. And some of that money I’d probably invest in organ-on-chip systems – they seem to be a promising alternative to current lab models, but tend to be quite expensive." 

What does your working area look like and what does it say about you or your research?

"I think my colleagues will start making fun of me soon because I love organizing and color-coding the stuff I work with! My working desk and lab bench are usually tidy and organized. On a daily basis, we work with piles of information, data, samples etc. etc. I like keeping it all structured to free my mind space for thinking about actual challenges." 

Nominate a colleague to be in the spotlight:

"I would like to nominate Shruti Desai, a new post-doctoral researcher at the Dept. of Biochemistry. She is an interesting and joyful person, and she has diverse background. The question I’d ask her would be:  If you could start a new (maybe high-risk) research project/new field of study right now at our department, irrespective of available finace/resources/materials, what would it be about?"

What type of person are you? Quick insights:

a) Mac or PC?                               : PC
b) Theater or cinema?                : Cinema
c) Dine out or dine in?                : Dine out
d) Ferrari or Fiat?                         : Ferrari
e) Shopaholic or chocoholic?     : None
f) Culture or Nature                     : Both
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