In his weblog Ron van de Water, master student Plant Sciences, writes about his experiences
Hi, I am Ron van de Water. I’m 24 years old and I live in Heesch, which is located in Noord-Brabant, the southern part of the Netherlands. I have a girlfriend and a cat. Currently I’m following MPS in Wageningen which stands for Master Plant Sciences. Master Plant Sciences has 5 specializations; one of these specializations is Plant Breeding and Genetic Resources. Plant Breeding and Genetic Resources focuses on of course Plant Breeding, but you have a lot of freedom to choose courses that are suitable for your future perspective. Besides that, a great deal of the courses are involved with genetics.
I followed my bachelor in Den Bosch, on an agricultural University of applied sciences (HAS). There I studied Biology, which was very brought and all the major topics were brought to attention. It was not very specialized. In Den Bosch I also did 2 major internships, both 6 months. One of these internships was in Wageningen at PRI (Plant Research International), my first experience with Wageningen. After I graduated from HAS Den Bosch I was planning to do a master and since Wageningen University is one of the best ‘green’ universities in the world it wasn’t a really tough decision.
This week the 5th period starts. So it means I already completed 4 periods. I really enjoyed these four periods, mostly because I passed all the exams, which is good. What I also enjoyed were the nice and patient teachers, who take all the time to make sure you understand what they try to teach you.
Besides lectures I play soccer three times a week. I am also very busy with organizing a festival, SunGrooves, which is completely focused on students and their preferences. We try to keep the prices for both entrance and consumptions as low as possible to make sure everybody can enjoy it. If you like a nice party, look it up on Facebook.
After my graduation (hopefully in 2014) I want to start working for one of the big breeding companies in the Netherlands. I would also enjoy working for PRI in Wageningen and do some more research, but working for a breeding company has my preference.
By now, you know who I am and what I do. Hopefully you keep reading my blogs about my Wageningen adventures and maybe one day, meet you in person in Wageningen.
April (and a little part of May) is dominated by the collection of data. With data I mean a lot of data! In the first half of this month I completed the harvesting of the cucumbers. The second half of the month I started collecting data that could be correlated to shelf-life characteristics in cucumber. For every number on four different time-points I take pictures from the external colour and internal colour, measure cavitiy size and texture and determine the pH. With this data I try to correlate different characteristics to the shelf-life of cucumber.
At the company there is a pretty nice lab, where all these tests can be done. Only for measuring pH I need to go to another subsidiary of Rijk Zwaan in Fijnaart. The texture analysis is quite a though job, since it is very time consuming and you cannot do anything else in the meantime. You have to be very focussed because you have to be sure that you measure the texture of the mesocarp and for example not from the peel or placental tissue.
Besides my internship I have also been busy with the festival I organize. This year we will make the festival a bit bigger, not two but three stages and we have an (inter)national act! Kraak & Smaak will be headlining our festival, which is quite cool! If you want to have a nice day with great music, great food and great people, you can already buy a early-bird ticket for only €8,- at www.Sungrooves.nl!
In April we also celibrate to birthday of our King, Kingsday! Well actually this year was the first year we had a King but the years before we celebrated the birthday of our Queen, also in April. On Kingsday everybody has a day off, dresses in Orange and goes to a city or festival. It is always a lot of fun!
Next month I hope to tell you a bit more about the QTL study I’m going to do!
March 2014 starts with a very nice ‘festival’ this year. Well, only below the three big rivers in the provinces North-Brabant and Limburg. It is called Carnaval and people are dressed up funny, participate in parades with self-made floats and of course drinking beer is also part of the party! Personally, I am not a die-hard participator in the Carnaval festivities, but normally I party a day or two (instead of five). This year I was dressed as a fire-fighter together with a few friends and we made a lot of fun!
Mid-March I started with my internship at breeding company Rijk Zwaan in de Lier. The day starts at 07.30 and I have to drive 1 hour and 15 minutes. You do the math on how early I have to leave home. For a student it is pretty early I can assure! For me it doesn’t matter, the people at the company are very nice and everything is well structured. The project I am working on is also very interesting and I think I can learn a lot from it! I will mostly be involved in phenotyping shelf-life characteristics in cucumber and perform a QTL study on this data. This first two weeks I have been busy reading literature, gathering protocols and testing these protocols to see if they are useful in high-throughput testing. Breeders have also shown me around the greenhouses and explained the breeding methods they are working with here at the company.
The coming months I will keep you up-to-date about all my adventures here at Rijk Zwaan! Maybe it can help you make the choice if working at a company is something for you!
So… this month the last month of my MSc thesis starts. It is all focussed on writing, receiving feedback, processing feedback and finish all the work I’ve been doing for the last 6 months in a proper way. Wow.. it was busy. You probably think it takes a lot time to write the report and you ‘live’ with your computer, literally. It’s totally true! The amazing thing was that most of my experiments ended in this period as well, so a lot of results came in that I needed to process and convert in results to put in my report. I’ve put a lot of effort in it and I think I did succeed pretty well. The report was finished in time and at the very last working day of February the evaluation of my MSc thesis was planned.
The evaluation is not that exciting, really. That’s because you are the expert on the topic that is discussed and you know (if you did a good job) every detail about it. Besides that, if you were totally on the wrong track, or your supervisors were not satisfied, you would’ve known it already. It is basically a discussion about your work and questions are asked about why you made certain choices. Still I was a little stressed of course but after all I think I can be very proud and satisfied with the outcome of the evaluation and the thesis in general. I completed my thesis with an 8. Yeaahh.. One step closer to finishing the Master program!
It feels a bit strange to leave the Radix building after the evaluation. It more or less means I do not have any obligations in Wageningen anymore. After the evaluation I could enjoy a 2 week holiday, since my internship starts somewhere in mid-march. I really look forward to that! Of course the internship, but first the 2 week holiday!
Next month I will tell you all about my first experiences at RijkZwaan!
January is a nice month, because January always starts with a party! I celebrated New Year’s with friends and family this year. Beer, champagne and fireworks were the perfect mix to start a hopefully new and successful year! Normally I always have Christmas holiday’s at the start of January, but this year I started working on my thesis immediately after the 1st of January. There is a lot of work to do! Only two months left before I had to end my thesis study. January is really important, since I have to end all the experiments and start writing.
But, because I did not take the Christmas holidays I still needed some relaxation of course! Therefore I went skiing in Zell am See, Austria, with my family! We’ve had an amazing week with temperatures that were a little bit too high, but the sun was shining and the snow was good. What do you want more?! After a long day of snowboarding, around 16.30h, we went après- skiing, which is always one of the highlights of a ski-holiday! After a week of exertion and relaxation in pool and spa, I was ready for a few months of hard work to get my MSc degree.
Next month I will tell more about the last part of my thesis and the start of my internship that will start in March.
December, the month of the holidays! Normally it is indeed. This year there was no two weeks Christmas break for me. I was still working on my thesis. All alone in the student room! Of course it is not nice to know that there is no company and that they are having holidays and you are working hard on your thesis. On the other hand, it is super quite, you don’t have to reserve stuff in the lab and there are all kinds of nice things on Dutch national radio, such as Serious Request (a charity action to raise money for the red cross) and the Top2000, the best 2000 songs on the radio 24/7.
Holiday for a student also means, trying to earn some money. I always say, for a student working life begins when holiday starts and holiday starts when working life (lectures) begins. So besides working on thesis (not much different things done this month) I also drove around in a van, delivering medicines to pharmacies and hospitals, quite a nice job!
Of course I celebrates Christmas with family and friends and as always it is very nice and cozy, but I am also happy when it’s over and you can just do what you like, instead of drinking a lot of coffee, eat a lot of cake and eat lots of other things;). Not very bad, but sitting in one place for longer than half an hour is really a challenge for me. So you can imagine what a struggle Christmas is for me;) New year was also very nice. We celebrated it with friends, lots of drinks and happiness! I really enjoyed it!
Anyway... Working on thesis in the holiday isn’t bad at all. Especially not when you know you will be leaving on the 6th of January for a week of snowboarding and après-skiing, just when everybody is ending their holiday! Life is just too good for a student!
For now I wish you all the best for 2014! Make it a very happy, healthy and successful year!!!
I am back with a blog from November about my study at Wageningen University. This month I have been mostly involved in designing primers, writing reports and confirming recombinants by screening more markers.
So to start with the primers. It is actually pretty simple to do. Especially for me because I am working on tomato. This means that the whole genome sequence is known, so developing primers is very easy. You just pick your region of interest on a genome browser, you ask for the specific sequence of that region. Than you open a primer design website, you paste the sequence and change some things in the settings and voilà... the website gives you the primers. That’s the easy part. After that you go and test the primers on your material, there you see if the primers are good enough and if they give any product. That is a very long and time-consuming period, but it is pretty nice to do, since I have never done it before. You learn new things every day!
From all the plants I have screened the last few months we have selected the most important recombinants and confirmed their genotype. Some very interesting genotypes are found and with these recombinants it is possible to find the gene we are looking for. Therefore I am designing more and more markers as I already told before. That is important because in that way we can specify the exact crossing over location. I hope I can tell you guys some great news next month! We will see.
This month we also joined Movember with the Plant breeding department here in Wageningen. We raised €615,-- for research on prostate and testicle cancer. We are very proud of it. Below you will find my harvest after one month of growing mustache!
Maybe you remember, maybe not. In the summer I organize a festival with a few friends. In the winter we also do something creative. Every winter there is an event near my home-town where all streetlights turned off and people put candles in front of their window and outside. It is called ‘Ravenstein bij Kaarslicht’. A lot of people come over the see it, because it is very cosy and beautiful to see. Our group are making an artwork on the canal, which floats and is full of candles. The event is on 15 December so in my next blog I will show you some pictures.
October was a very wet month, Autumn came and in the Netherlands we always experience a lot of rain during this season. Luckily we had a great summer, otherwise you could become a little depressed. This month I have been busy with further unfolding my thesis project.
I have been mainly busy with screening recombinants. In short this means that you sow seeds, grow plants for one week, take a small leaf sample, extract the DNA, run a PCR on the right flanking marker, run a PCR on the left flanking marker, see if there is a recombinant. The first two months of my thesis research I have screened approximately 4000 plants. This means I have ran more or less 80 PCR plates, which can become a bit boring sometimes. On the other hand, when you find a recombinant, you confirmed the recombinant and you can put more markers on the DNA to more or less fine map a gene-region makes life more interesting again. Next few weeks I will screen a few more plants and will also be involved in FISH. FISH is a technique in which you can stain parts of the DNA to see in which sequence they are located on the chromosome.
This month I have also been involved in agro-filtration of a virus in tomato-plants for a research from my supervisor. With a syringe you inoculate the virus into the plant. After that you wait for a few weeks to see if the plant is susceptible or resistant against the virus.
With the students on my room in the Radix building, on the Wageningen Campus we try to organize a drink every week at Wednesdays or Thursdays to hang out and just have a good time. In that way we can discuss some thesis related stuff as well as a lot of other rubbish. The drinks are always the best moment in the week.
See you next month!
Here we are again, starting with a new academic year. For me this is the last year of my Master Plant Sciences and currently I am doing my Master thesis in Wageningen at the Plant Sciences group. Before I will talk about that, let’s look back to the good life, holidays! I went to a Greek island with my girlfriend and we had an amazing time. I can really recommend the island, Samos. The views were amazing the weather was incredible, the beach was of unseen beauty and the food was delicious! It is a real good place to hang out and to charge for a new academic year.
But this summer another very important thing was planned. The festival I organize took place at August 24. I’ve put a lot of effort in the organization of the event but it was (again) definitely worth it. This year we saw an increase in visitors, like in all the previous editions, and only heard positive feedback! This year 1200 visitors attended our event and with ticket prices of €8,- and a beer for €1.75 we try to keep it nice and accessible for everyone! Check the pictures below for a nice impression. There is also an after movie available, check this link if you want to see more about our festival; http://youtu.be/UfbbZyoGEfc
Now back to life, back to reality. This month I started my thesis and as I already told you before it is about Virus resistance in Tomato. My goal is to search for recombinants with PCR and to fine map the resistance gene region so that the resistance gene can be cloned. It involves a lot of sowing seeds, collecting samples and running PCR to look for any recombinants that narrow the gene region. You have to be very patient and maybe also a bit lucky, but at least you learn a lot from it. Besides my own project I’m assisting in other experiments as well, also about virus resistance, which is more focusing on silencing and marker development. Next month I will show you some pictures about my work here at PRI (Plant Research International).
The last month of the semester, which also means the last period of this academic year, which also means… HOLIDAY. This last month I followed the course Design of a Plant Breeding Program, this is a very intense course that takes four weeks. The aim of the course is to get insight in how to design a breeding program and what factors are important to take into account. Therefore we had to choose a crop which we wanted to improve. Our group chose the crop carrot, which we are planning to improve with a resistance. To be able to get insight in the problem we had to dive into the literature and contact several breeders to get information about how to design the program.
Another facet in this course was going on an excursion. We went to De Groot & Slot and Bejo seeds, both breeding companies are leading in vegetable seeds. After a long bus-trip from Wageningen to Warmerhuizen we arrived at De Groot & Slot. Here they told us about the company and showed the greenhouses, where they mainly breed onions. At Bejo we got a magnificent lunch, it was amazing! After the lunch we got a tour at the company, where they showed us the research and seed processing facilities and greenhouses. Bejo is leading in vegetable seeds and breeds crops like, carrots, cauliflower, onions and leek. It was a nice experience to see companies that could be your employer in the near future.
In July I will go on a well deserved holiday to a Greece island, Samos. This year I passed all my exams so I will start working on my MSc thesis in September. I will be working on resistance against a virus in Tomato, at Plant Research International. Here I hope to get familiar with the breeding work and related issues, like disease tests, design of markers and making crosses. Really looking forward to it!
Hope to see you next academic year!
This month I only had to follow a 5 week course, so this was pretty intensive. However, the course was very much fun. It was called Plant-Microbe interactions, which probably does not sound too exiting ;) The course contained a two week period of intensive practicals, which was most fun of the whole course. I learned and did so much stuff I had never done before, like making mutations, transform plants, inoculate plants, etc. All these things you read about in every article you know.. But how are all these experiments exactly conducted?! I learned it all in this course. And you know what the funny part is... It is not all that difficult it is just a lot of work if you have to make replicates and do experiments with a lot of plants.
This month the new education building on the Campus opened. Now the campus is really turning into a large educational zone where everything is nicely centred and all facilities are around to give students the best education they need to become the best in their field of knowledge. A few weeks ago Wageningen University was also ranked as the second best university in the world for agro technology related studies. We ended up just after UC Davis in California. So there is almost no better place to study than Wageningen. I’m quite proud about that!
The best part of the month May was the promotion of my soccer team. After a thrilling decision game we won. After that we celebrated the victory like if we became world champion. Lots of beer, champagne and junkfood were involved. But it was definitely worth it ;)
Next month will be the start of the last period of the year, after that a well-deserved holiday break. I am looking forward to that. Relaxing will probably not be my major time consuming activity. Holiday time means earning money!
April, the continuation of a very busy period. As I mentioned in my last blog we had a nice practical this month for the course Plant Breeding. We had to perform an apple taste trail. In this trail we had to determine some sensory attributes like sourness, hardness and juiciness. In total we had to asses 10 apple varieties, that we of course all had to eat. You can imagine that I could not see an apple for a few weeks after that practical. It became even a bit unpleasant when I found out that I’m a bit allergic to apples. After the practical I had an annoying itch and had to sneeze all the time. You do also learn something about yourself during those practicals it seems. One other advantage of the practical is that I now know exactly which apple tastes best when I have to choose from the enormous selection of apple varieties in the supermarket ;)
For the Modern Statistics course we really went into depth. I had to make a case study about QTL analysis, something I had never done before. That was quite a bit work, but the nice thing is you really learn something out of it. It still wonders me that you can learn so much about a certain subject in a 6-week period.
This month I also had my first meeting about my Master thesis, that will start coming September. I found a very nice research group at the Plant Breeding department, where I will conduct research on tomatoes for 6 months. The precise details are not yet clear, but you will definitely read about it in this blog.
The event I have organized this month was also a big success. The venue was rather small, so we had to close the venue at some point because it became too busy. On one hand it was a pity because you don’t want to disappoint people, on the other hand you know that your event is popular. Now all attention can go to organizing the real event this summer!
This month ended with the exams week. It was tough but at least I have a pretty good feeling about the exams I have done. The next weeks will show if I can trust my feelings. After the exams we went for a nice drink in the centre of Wageningen, the sun was shining, the beers were cold and the people were nice. What do you want more after a though week of studying?!
This is my first blog, the chance for you to follow the life of a Plant Sciences student. The last period I followed a self-study course. This means you don’t have any lectures and you need to do a lot of self-study. The content of the course is available through the Internet, so you can study from everywhere you like. It is more or less a small holiday break, because you are very free in deciding what to do with your time. On the other hand you have to have a lot of discipline, because the study load is pretty high!
It was a huge shock for me when the current period started. I decided to follow two very interesting and necessary courses for a Plant Breeder. In the morning I follow Plant Breeding for Quality and Resistance and in the afternoon I follow Modern statistics of Life Sciences. From a 4 week ‘holiday’ to a 50 hours study week requires quite some adjustment. But it’s worth it, especially the morning course is very interesting and touches upon every subject a breeder wants to learn about. The course is very varied. Lectures and practicals are both part of the course and follow up nicely. The lecturers are all top researchers so the content is all up-to-date. Next week we have an apple taste/quality practical, in which we are going to taste different apple varieties. That’s awesome don’t you think?
Lately I’ve also been very busy organizing a small festival that serves as a ‘warm-up’ for the big festival I organize in August. I also went on a short ski-trip to Winterberg, Germany. It is only a 3,5 hour drive and the snow conditions are perfect. When you decide you want to come to Wageningen you should really go there in the winter. Well, that’s how a student fills up his schedule. Tough life isn’t it?!