RIMLS highlights 2017
Anouk Becker MSc Thesis awardDuring her Master's program Anouk Becker carried out an internship and subsequently wrote her thesis. Because of her outstanding work, she was elected for the RIMLS MSc thesis prize.
Emmy Fleuren Goes abroadEmmy Fleuren published several instrumental papers during her PhD project at the department of Medical Oncology, including a paper entitled “Phosphoproteomic profiling reveals ALK and MET as novel actionable targets across synovial sarcoma subtypes” in Cancer Research.
This formed the basis for a successful application for an NWO Rubicon grant allowing her to further improve her scientific skills in the lab of Roger Daly at the Institute of Cancer Research of the Monash University. Here, she is studying synthetic lethality, a potential weak spot in cancer cells. There are indications that this may play a role in certain types of childhood cancers, including AYA sarcomas. Emmy plans to 'exploit' these weak spots in order to develop a specific therapy.
Tom Schirris Several personal grantsJunior Research Fellowship of Wolfson College Cambridge
Tom Schirris, was elected to a prestigious Junior Research Fellowship of Wolfson College, which is a leading academic research institution as one of the 31 colleges in the University of Cambridge. Tom is currently studying mitochondrial transporters at the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit in Cambridge and as a Junior Research Fellow of the College it is his duty to undertake postdoctoral work and promote scholarship in this subject. Tom’s formal admission as a Fellow took place at the meeting of the Governing Body on 17 October 2017.
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Prof. Dr. van Zwieten award
At the 40th anniversary jubilee meeting of the Dutch Pharmacological Society on 1 June 2017 in Utrecht, Tom Schirris received the Prof. Dr. Van Zwieten award for his doctoral thesis. Tom defended his thesis cum laude in December 2016 and he is currently studying the pharmacological aspects of mitochondrial transporters at the MRC Biology Unit of Cambridge University, funded by an EMBO Long-Term Fellowship. More information about the Prof. Dr. Van Zwieten award click here.
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Joep van den Bercken prize
The cum laude PhD thesis of Tom was also recognized by the Netherlands Society of Toxicology as best contribution to the field in 2016. At the annual meeting of the society on June 20 2017 in Doorn, Tom received the Joep van den Bercken prize along with a certificate and € 1000. Tom gave an excellent presentation on his work, in which he showed how cross-fertilizing connections between systems medicine, toxicology and mitochondrial biology has resulted in new insights into the understanding of side effects of drugs and treatment of metabolic disorders.
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Viola Klück What am I doing in the lab?
When Viola Klück was rounding off a degree in Medicine, she started looking around for a PhD position. She had done a few internships at a lab during her Bachelor’s and Master’s and research intrigued her. She ended up being awarded a personal grant by winning RIMLS’s MSc-PhD prize for her thesis Unravelling inflammatory mechanisms of hyperuricemia to prevent gout and associated diseases. Viola began working at the research institute as a PhD candidate in May of 2017.
Q1 How does a medical student end up doing molecular research?
“It’s really not that far removed from clinical practice as some might think. I just get to zoom into a medical problem and try and figure out how it works. My aim now is to impact a group rather than an individual patient. At first I did think: what am I doing in the lab?
But I must admit, at first I did think: I’m a clinician, what am I doing in the lab? I had a lot to learn about the basic elements of research and lab techniques. Yet, our team consists of equal numbers of biomedical scientists and clinical researchers. I think it gives a good balance. Clinical researchers are more inclined to keep their eye on the potential future benefits for patients."
Q2 What medical problem intrigued you enough to research and what do you hope to achieve for tomorrow’s medicine?
“I’m researching the mechanisms by which urate and MSU crystals – the crystallized form of urate – lead to inflammation. This is very important for gout and associated diseases such as cardiovascular diseases.
I hope to prove the causal relationship between urate and the associated comorbidities. For instance, that urate directly leads to endothelial dysfunction and therefore increased cardiovascular risk. If that’s true, already available (and cheap) urate lowering therapy such as allopurinol, could be useful for a big group of patients. Similar to antihypertensive drugs and statins, they could be prescribed to prevent cardiovascular diseases.
If it does, I will have to start writing lots of guidelines. But that’s okay. Informing medical professions that available drugs can have different purposes is just as important as developing new drugs.”
Q3 How do you feel about the support and training you receive at RIMLS?
“In the training and supervision plans we need to write there is equal attention for the scientific research as for education. I can take courses at Radboud University, some of which are taught by RIMLS scientists. I have to admit, though, that often I’m so involved in the science that I forget about the courses. I’ll try planning something in but either there’s a conference I want to go to or I give priority to testing.
There is little hierarchy between researchers. Someone is always ready to help me when I ask for it. I can also just walk into my supervising professors offices and enthusiastically share my results. And in return they are enthusiastic for me. Sometimes, even more so than me. Whereas I can be disappointed about negative results they will show me the importance of what I’ve done and what I’ve learned from it. It keeps me motivated.”
Q4 What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your first year?
“For sure, I’m a better scientist than I was last year. Of course, I’ve learned the practical skills to be a researcher. But it’s so much more than that. I’ve gotten a scientific mindset. I’ve learned how to tackle a problem, ask the right questions. I can organize and structure my work, although I do feel I’m a bit more chaotic than many fellow researchers. But that’s okay; that’s how I work. It helps me make connections I might not otherwise have made.
Also very important, I had to get used to the pace. Not everything works the way you want it to immediately. Negative data, although less publishable, is equally important.”
Q5 A year into your three-year track, are you already looking at where you want your research career to go?
“Erm … well, right now I’m looking to get my first paper completed and published. I’ve almost collected all the data needed and the outline’s set so I can start writing soon. I’m not as worried about the writing process as I thought I would be.
I do have an idea of what I want after I complete my PhD. I want to go back to specialize in internal medicine or rheumatology. Eventually, I would enjoy working directly with patients while satisfy my curiosity with research. Ideally, 50-50.”