My name is Ferd Janssen, I performed my thesis project at Nematology as part of my MSc Biology program. During my thesis project, I conducted research regarding a helminth derived protein called HpVAL-4. Helminths, are parasites that suppress the host immune system for their own survival. They do this with certain excretory-secretory products. Due to their immunoregulatory effects, these ES products provide interesting candidates for biopharmaceuticals to treat allergic and inflammatory diseases. HpVAL-4 is one of such ES products.
I still remember my first week in the lab, when I started my first experiments in close collaboration with my supervisor. During sample preparation, I picked up a conversation between my supervisor and another student where he said: ‘’my two students will soon be able to work by themselves’’. Because I was still using new techniques every day, and was used to the course practical sessions where you can follow protocols without really knowing what you are doing, I couldn’t imagine working alone without my supervisor checking every pipetting step I did. Fortunately, thanks to patient training by my supervisor and the help of other people in the lab, I was quickly able to plan and work independently but also help other students myself, which was really motivating.
To me, Nematology provided a very helpful and kind but also professional environment. Within the lab, lab-technicians always took their time to help whenever necessary. The work discussions learned me to present and defend my own results in a better way. The thesis ring sessions provided me with useful feedback and suggestions during my report writing, but also taught me how to critically reflect and suggest improvements for the work of other students. And of course, performing my own research project for seven months not only made me justify and realize why I was using the techniques and materials that I did, but also allowed me to come up with my own well thought suggestions.
However, my time at nematology also included some fun and relaxing moments when academic topics were set aside. At least once a week, there was always a moment that deserved some cake. If it was not someone’s birthday, there was always someone who was almost finished with his/her project. I will also never forget the climbing sessions with my supervisor and some other students. And of course the legendary Christmas lunch that included not only top-chef worthy dishes but also a very nice game of living monopoly around campus.
Considering all these things, I can say that performing a thesis at nematology has not only been the most academically valuable aspect during my whole study so far, but also provided me with a pleasant experience. Therefore, I can recommend any student who is interested in host-parasite interactions and is looking for an educational, professional and fun thesis experience, a project at nematology.