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    • Blog day 4: Workshops and discussions
      We are nearing the end of an amazing introductory week, but not before we had these discussions about scientific integrity. On Tuesday, we prepared presentations about several subjects and today was the day to present them to our fellow students. There were three different rounds with different groups and subjects, all in the Rupert building. Topics ranged from the influence and importance of peer reviews and accurate authorship to the modification of dangerous viruses in sight of possible bioterrorism and the genetic engineering of eels to be able to breed them (Bad deal for the eel!). Some nice discussions arose and very interesting questions were asked. With the subject of my group, our chair was so enthusiastic that she fully joined the discussion! Pro tip: Do not forget to download your Google slides document and put it on a USB drive if you had promised to do so. After the debate rounds, most of us had quite a long break, but this also allowed us to socialise more with the other students. With some of them, I had lunch in De Brink, the restaurant of the UMC Utrecht, which was also neat, because our afternoon programme was in the Pink, Green and Yellow lecture halls in the Hijmans van den Bergh building. In the afternoon programme, we attended one of three workshops on different topics. Stefan Braam enlightened us about being an entrepreneur in the life sciences. Although it was more about being an entrepreneur an sich, it was a very useful and pleasant lecture. At one point, we were asked to create a budget model in just five minutes with only a bicycle and a hundred euros as at our disposal. He also comforted us with the words that failure is good and, apparently, this is the best time to be alive. Eelco Jongenburger and Eva Pantelakis took us on a journey in academic communication and what better way to explain it than to act? The importance of body language was addressed and we were asked to describe our first impression of our neighbour in just one word! Some sweet tips for nervousness were also subject of conversation. This workshop literally ended with a bang as we got to pop the balloons they gave us. Fun! The third workshop, given by the amusing Dr. Léon Knippels was about the life of a scientist at Nutricia Research. He talked, amongst other things, about changes in the industry and the importance of communication. Taken together, it was a very diverse, interesting day. Tomorrow is the last day of our introduction with some lectures continuing subjects of today’s debates and we’ll go in depth on scientific writing. Apparently the week will end with some fun activities, so I am curious to find out what else they have in store for us! (…Despite the horrible weather that was forecast. Welcome to the Netherlands everyone!)
    • Blog day 4: Workshops and discussions
      We are nearing the end of an amazing introductory week, but not before we had these discussions about scientific integrity. On Tuesday, we prepared presentations about several subjects and today was the day to present them to our fellow students. There were three different rounds with different groups and subjects, all in the Rupert building. Topics ranged from the influence and importance of peer reviews and accurate authorship to the modification of dangerous viruses in sight of possible bioterrorism and the genetic engineering of eels to be able to breed them (Bad deal for the eel!). Some nice discussions arose and very interesting questions were asked. With the subject of my group, our chair was so enthusiastic that she fully joined the discussion! Pro tip: Do not forget to download your Google slides document and put it on a USB drive if you had promised to do so. After the debate rounds, most of us had quite a long break, but this also allowed us to socialise more with the other students. With some of them, I had lunch in De Brink, the restaurant of the UMC Utrecht, which was also neat, because our afternoon programme was in the Pink, Green and Yellow lecture halls in the Hijmans van den Bergh building. In the afternoon programme, we attended one of three workshops on different topics. Stefan Braam enlightened us about being an entrepreneur in the life sciences. Although it was more about being an entrepreneur an sich, it was a very useful and pleasant lecture. At one point, we were asked to create a budget model in just five minutes with only a bicycle and a hundred euros as at our disposal. He also comforted us with the words that failure is good and, apparently, this is the best time to be alive. Eelco Jongenburger and Eva Pantelakis took us on a journey in academic communication and what better way to explain it than to act? The importance of body language was addressed and we were asked to describe our first impression of our neighbour in just one word!
    • Blog Day 3: Should you stay or should you go?
      Today, the third day of the ILS, was all about our choices and opportunities both during and after our time at the GSLS. Early on Wednesday morning I arrived at the Hijmans van den Bergh building to find the whole place crowded with bicycles. After taking some time to find a spot to cram my own bike in (the ultimate Dutch experience, I suppose…), I found myself a spot in the lecture hall. We started the day with an introduction to the ‘Navigation towards personal excellence’ course, that will help guide us during our master programme and help us get a grip on all the possible choices and career paths we might pursue. I must admit, I find myself a bit dazzled with all the choices and opportunities we are offered… And so we continued with some more options for our master’s programme: profiles. You can choose a profile instead of your second (six months) internship, and during today’s lecture, each profile coordinator got five minutes to pitch their profile. Most students do the research profile; a second six month internship in the lab. Other profiles that were presented were for example science and education, bioinformatics, complex systems or management. So if you find out that research might not be it for you after all, there are alternative profiles to complement your master’s programme otherwise. Choices, choices, choices… Luckily, we got the opportunity to meet alumni of the GSLS; professionals who have progressed down this road of endless decision making much further, who could provide us with some helpful advice. The alumni present covered a wide range of careers, from UU policy makers, to PhD-students and consultants at pharmaceutical companies. Of course, these people cannot tell you which choices you should make to end up in a similar position, but I did receive a number of useful tips! Something that was stressed by most alumni, was to make sure to have a good balance between your work and life, not to forget to take a breath and relax a little every now
    • Blog Day 2: Scientific Integrity and Scientific Entropy
      After all the wonderful and new experiences yesterday had brought us, it was already time for the second day of the ILS. Today, we had the opportunity to gather in one of the buildings of the Utrecht Science Park: the Educatorium, where we were expected in the great lecture hall Theatron (with considerably more comfortable chairs than yesterday).  That most students were still used to their holiday rhythms, was noticeable by today’s “early” start at 9:00, which not everyone was able to make. Unfortunately, our first speaker, Dr. Franck Meijboom, had become ill. Luckily, our second speaker, Dr. Mariëtte van den Hoven, was so kind to give his lecture as well. With the slides that would also be used in Brussels, Dr. Van den Hoven enlightened us about the ethics of animal use and animal welfare with some nice “aww” reactions to a photograph of a puppy. After that lecture, she told us about the Research Integrity survey we had completed in advance. While some statements and questions were answered just as expected and everyone was, to some extent, a goody two-shoes, other statements were not so clear and immediately gave rise to questions and discussion. Just before the end of today’s lecture time, the assignment about Scientific Integrity was explained. The 400 students were divided in groups of 18 people with different subjects. This resulted in a harmless form of chaos where everyone was looking for their group members. Some bright minds wrote their group number on a piece of paper and held it into the air, an idea which was soon followed by others. After some time, our group was complete and we took off to a quieter place for discussion. We eventually settled in the library and completed our assignment. Pro tip: Google Slides documents with nineteen people causes a certain entropy. We are excited what tomorrow will bring!
    • Blog Day 1: Welcome to the Graduate School of Life Sciences!
      This coming week Erik and I, two brand new Graduate School of Life Sciences (GSLS) students, will be attending the ‘Introducing Life Sciences’ (ILS) course. This one week course will welcome and introduce us to the GSLS and our master programmes. Erik is starting the Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences programme and I am starting the Cancer, Stem Cells & Developmental Biology programme. Every day this coming week, we will post a blog to update you on our activities during the ILS. The first day of the ILS, on Monday September 4th, we were invited to the Museum Speelklok for the kick-off of the ILS week. The museum houses in an impressive medieval church in the middle of Utrecht’s city centre. The building is filled with a large collection of self-playing instruments that also ornament the rooms we had the lectures in. After administration, and – not to forget – after receiving the GSLS goodie bag (students tend to like free stuff after all), the brand new academic year was heralded by the sound of classic clockworks hanging above our heads. The chair of today’s session, dr. Gönül Dilaver (coordinator of the Biomedical Sciences department), welcomed us and introduced us to the first speaker. Prof. Marijk van der Wende gave us an inspiring talk, including interesting facts on the demographics of our student population, and how the GSLS teaches a very diverse group of students. Prof. Jos van Strijp, chair of the GSLS, also welcomed us to the GSLS and continued with predicting our futures; half of us would continue our career in science with a PhD, but only two of the over 400 students in the room would end up being a fulltime professor. Prof. Harold van Rijen encouraged us on becoming our own master. He enlightened us about his own career path, and especially on the fact that he really didn’t have a certain ‘direction’ in mind while taking it; telling us to stick to what makes us happy and motivated and to enjoy the journey. Before the break, also a short