Studentenverhaal

Student Paula Pinzón Bonilla - MSc Biotechnology

Paula studied the Bachelor Process Engineering in Colombia, during which she focused on Biotechnology. "After my graduation, I had gained knowledge about so many processes it was difficult to choose for one specific process. However, I knew for sure I wanted to keep on broadening my studies on biotechnological processes."

I was really part of the team, instead of just being a student following some orders

Study

Paula decided to finish her Biotechnology career at Wageningen University. “I think Biotechnology is the solution to more and more problems nowadays, especially in the upcoming food shortage. So I think it is worth to know about it.” Paula started her master in February, but she found out she could better have started in the beginning of the year. “I was not able to do some basic courses, so I had to start with advanced courses immediately. I managed, but it was difficult sometimes.” Paula is concerned about improving the study program on issues like this and is therefore member of the  Educational Committee of the master Biotechnology. This Educational Committee is concerned with improving the study program. "There are not many international students who are participating in this kind of activities, but I encourage them to join. Being an international student often means that you are used to a different educational system and you see things in another way."

Thesis

Paula just finished her thesis about the detection of a certain pathogen in chicken meat. “The ISO standards already prescribe a detection method, but the method is not good enough to detect this pathogen anymore. So the idea of my thesis was to propose some alternatives for this method. We made a juice from real chicken samples in which the pathogenic bacteria might be present. We performed exactly the same steps as the ISO standard prescribe, but we included an additional selective agar. And we performed that procedure many times…” Paula found out that the efficiency of the current detection method of ISO is decreasing and decreasing. “This is caused by the fact that the competitors grow faster than the target organisms. Therefore, the competitors instead of the pathogenic bacteria are the ones being measured.” Paula enjoyed the joint coffee breaks at the lab. “It allowed me to talk with people with potentially very good ideas for my project. And vice versa. I really liked the fact that if I had an idea, my supervisors were willing to try it out. So I was really part of the team, instead of just being a student following some orders.”

Plans for the future

“I will soon start my internship at a Dutch governmental institution, the Nederlandse Voedsel- en Waren Autoriteit (NVWA, Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority). I will work at the detection and identification of some E. Coli strains that produce a toxin. I think it is good that an internship is included in the study program as it gives an idea about the future. Luckily, the NVWA is situated in Wageningen, so I can stay here. Now I am nearly finished with my master I realise I have to leave quite soon. I would be happy to prolong my time in Wageningen a bit!”