Student testimonial

Kikkie Poels - MSc Animal Sciences (specialisation Molecule, Cell and Organ Functioning)

Kikkie is aiming for a future career in research. Therefore she followed the research master track. At this moment she is working on her thesis within the specialisation of Applied Zoology. At this page, Kikkie shares her story about her thesis.

I really appreciate working at a molecular level, as you get to know the exact pathway.

"After I had a blast during my BSc Animal Sciences (also at Wageningen University), it was not hard to decide to continue with the MSc Animal Sciences. In your master you get a lot of free space to fill with almost every course you like. Even though I was not exactly sure about my specialisation, I did know that I wanted to end up in research, so I took several courses (such as Laboratory Animal Sciences and Research Master Cluster) in that direction. After following the course Development and Healthy Aging, I had found my call: Human and Animal Physiology (HAP) it was!"


Right now I am doing my major thesis at the HAP chair group. In a society where both obesity and underweight are a major problem (also in e.g. pets), it is important to find out the exact detrimental effect of a change in energy supply on several parameters. These parameters do not only include risk factors for e.g. cardiovascular diseases, but also factors as growth and reproduction. My thesis focuses on reproduction and fertility: What level of weight gain or weight loss is associated with a decrease in fertility?

During this thesis I look at the testis of mice that are either a transgenic variant or a genetic knock-out and therefore have a different metabolism. This leads to a decrease in energy availability which might decrease fertility and thus the possibility to reproduce. It is up to me to study the testis histologically and to find out what has happened in the different groups. Although histology may not seem very interesting, it does give you great insight in the exact changes by just looking. Additional staining can be used to study specific mechanisms. In my case, I look specifically to the expression of Sirtuins within the different kinds of cells in the testis to see if the expression has changed and therefore how cell metabolism has been affected.

This is very detailed work and that is what I appreciate at HAP. They work at a molecular level and for me that makes everything way more interesting, as you get to know the exact pathway. For now, I do not have any results yet, but it is expected that low energy availability will reduce the reproductive capacity in male mice, as significant changes have already been found in female mice. The questions that then remain are how does it work and to what extent is fertility limited? I am also very curious on which level this will actually occur, which types of cells will be affected most? Then again, if no differences appear in the male groups, can the difference between sexes be explained...?  Every result is thus of interest, which ensures at least an interesting outcome.