My name is Laurens Voogt and I am an Msc student of Biology here at Wageningen University & Research. My decision at some point to pursue the “bio-interactions” specialization led me—almost inexorably—to the laboratory of Nematology, where I was supervised by Erik Slootweg.
The thesis topic I selected involved the study of resistance proteins (R-proteins) in potato plants, and particularly how these R-proteins detect the presence of pathogens and activate a defense response. Using various molecular techniques, we investigated a specific protein-protein interaction that is suspected to be involved in the potato plant’s defense against two entirely unrelated pathogens; a virus (PVX) and a nematode (Globodera pallida).
The results were intriguing, and I count myself very lucky to have been a part of this stage of the investigation. My experiences during the thesis were overall very positive. Not only because I was fortunate enough to get exciting results, but also because of the whole learning experience. I learned a lot from my supervisor about how to interpret the results, how to connect the results to current theories, and how to design follow-up experiments. The laboratory is also extremely well organized and structured, which is something that definitely helped me a lot. And the lab technicians were also very helpful, and clearly highly knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to explaining the various lab techniques. At the same time, thesis students are strongly encouraged to work (and think) as independently as possible, to take initiative, and not be too afraid to make mistakes. This was a bit difficult in the beginning for me, but looking back I have to say that it’s really been one of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had.
I would recommend anyone looking for a challenging and interesting thesis topic to consider the wide range of fascinating subjects available at the Nematology lab.