Corstiaen Versteegh did his MSc Biology internship in New York, where he did research on hair bundles. The results of this research have recently been published in Nature.
Internship in New York
The final stage of my Master Biology programme was the external internship. From my previous Master's theses I learned that I wanted to do an internship in sensory neuroscience with a quantitative approach, using mathematics and physics. This is how I ended up doing my internship in Jim Hudspeth's lab (The Rockefeller University, New York): a name I only knew from the scientific literature, but someone with great publications and appealing research. He studies hearing mainly by focusing on the hair cells of the inner ear, which transform a motion (i.e. due to sound) into an electric signal that goes to the brain.
On top of a hair cell is a hair bundle with the remarkable characteristic that a minute motion, less than 1 nm, is sufficient to elicit a response. In order to achieve this high sensitivity the hair bundle must stay together, i.e. by menas of proteins connecting individual hairs (stereocilia) of the bundle. However, the research I participated in showed that hydrodynamic forces between the stereocilia also play an important role. The close apposition of stereocilia ensures the hair bundle moves as a whole, opening and closing ion channels on all stereocilia simultaneously: a prerequisite for a reliable electric signal.
Publication in Nature
I was given the opportunity to work with a great principal investigator at a renowned research institute. The results of this research have also recently been published in the journal Nature. I could never have imagined that my internship would turn out to be this successful. This success, however, is also due to the friendly and hospitable environment the at the Hudspeth Lab.