It was an easy choice for me to do an internship. During my study, I rarely encountered real opportunities to apply my gathered knowledge. So, for me, the internship acted as a trial to see whether I could apply my skills and knowledge adequately and independently.
Additionally, I wanted to see whether I am fit for a company setting as opposed to an academic setting. Hereby, my thesis supervisor, Mark Sterken, directed me to ClearDetections in Wageningen. ClearDetections is a rather small company with a big view. They specialise in RT-PCR to detect belowground plant pathogens, including nematodes and fungi, for agriculture around the globe. I was tasked with finding a way to identify nematodes in soil nematode communities, which was a project commissioned by HLB B.V.
In my internship project, I first focussed on the DNA extraction of nematode DNA from nematode community suspensions. Here, I tested and optimised several different methods gathered, from which I identified the most applicable methods for the rest of my project. Subsequently, I described two methods of identifying soil nematode communities. The first method involved the quantification of each trophic nematode group in the community through RT-PCR with targeted primers. The second method involved identifying present nematode taxa through NGS. Although my knowledge on these techniques was rather limited, I got the chance to freely explore them.
During my project, I had ample opportunity to show off my knowledge on the subject and improve on my (molecular) skills in the lab. The people at ClearDetections allowed me to freely dive into the project and openly discussed experimental approaches with me. Because ClearDetections is a small company, I had many opportunities to assist colleagues with their projects as well. With this, I learned how important it is in a company to keep close contact with your employees by showing interest and responsibility, as well as with the commissioner to keep them up to date about the state of the project. I also learned how a company functions in terms of production and networking, and what is required to keep customers interested in the products. All in all, I quite enjoyed my time at ClearDetections. It was easy to get close with the employees while staying professional, and it was fun to share knowledge with my colleagues.