As a student who is passionate about the subject of oncology, I have been fortunate enough to spend my internship period in the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI). NKI is a comprehensive cancer research institute in affiliation with Antonie van Leeuwenhoek hospital, which brings together the fundamental research, clinical research, and epidemiology study under one roof of research framework.
Throughout my internship I worked in the department of Biological Stress Response and participated in a study regarding the fundamental role of mRNA during B cells development. Doing an internship in a research institute is tough in its own way. Although I consider this as a case by case issue, a research institute treats students in different way as the university. Based on my experience of doing a thesis in Nematology, most of the thesis projects that are provided for the students in the university have been designed for an educational purpose. In such case, the project is very much certain and a research plan could be drawn beforehand. Meanwhile my research project in NKI was less certain, there was a lot of trial and error before the expected result could be acquired. As a matter of fact, NKI does not provide a project for a student, instead the student is expected to actively contribute to the project that is conducted.
In return, several benefits could be gained during the course of the internship period in NKI. I could hone my laboratory skills in molecular cloning. Moreover, there was also vast liberty to study advance laboratory skills such as retroviral transfection and transduction as well as flow-cytometry analysis. The knowledge basis to be learned in NKI is ample, not necessarily cancer related but also basic molecular biology, genomics, and bioinformatics. As a student, we have the benefit to attend group meetings and journal clubs held every week by the Biological Stress Response group. Furthermore, every Friday, there is an international seminar, where the NKI invites prominent figures from notable cancer research institutes as a speaker. This could be a good chance for a student to gain theoretical knowledge in cancer research.
For those who are interested to build a career in research, I would suggest to seek an internship opportunity in a research institute, and make use of your time there. Doing an internship in a research institute will help you to reflect and appreciate what you have been learned during your thesis in Nematology, as it helps you to survive in the tough environment of a research institute.