The Laboratory of Nematology, situated in the Radix building on the third floor, never has difficulties with finding students who want to do their BSc or MSc thesis there. At the ‘Nemalab’ it is always full of students, both from Dutch and non-Dutch origin. What can explain that so many students are attracted to the Nemalab? I, named Maarten Costerus, did a thesis twice at the Nemalab, therefore I can solve the mystery for you.
First of all, at Nematology you can do a large variety of thesis subjects. Are you intrigued by potato cyst nematodes that form a largescale problem in agriculture? Or are you more interested in worms that infect humans and secrete proteins that can possibly help against immune-mediated disorders? But there is more. Do you want to perform genetic studies using the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans in order to learn more about susceptibility to viral infections or about ageing? Even that belongs to the possibilities.
Secondly, Nematology is famous for its cosy and informal atmosphere, the nice and smart people that work there, and a number of side-activities that are organised. Amongst these side-activities are the yearly weekend to Boekel and the traditional Christmas lunch. There are other additional reasons that many students find their way to Nematology, such as that the staff at Nematology participates in multiple educational activities. Personally I chose to do my theses here because of the interesting topics.
At my BSc thesis, I studied the beneficial effects of the white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, on the development of egg allergy. The project encompassed both in vitro and in vivo studies, which I performed in cooperation with a fellow-student and the university of Utrecht. One nice experience of this project was the day that I together with the fellow-student, Reneé Moerkens, went to Utrecht in a car from the WUR to pick up organs from mice. The mice had received a diet with extracts from different A. bisporus varieties, and developed an allergic response to ovalbumin, which is a protein found in eggs. As a main result of this project, one of the A. bisporus varieties did completely prevent the allergic response of the mice!
At my MSc thesis, I studied natural genetic variation that determines the susceptibility of different C. elegans strains to Orsay virus infection. Therefor I performed crosses with C. elegans, resulting in new nematode lines, called sub-introgression lines (sub-ILs). I genotyped the sub-ILs and infected some sub-ILs with Orsay virus. Then I correlated the genotypes of each tested sub-IL with the viral load. As a result, I found two genetic loci that seemed to cause a reduction in viral load. The nice thing of this project was that it was really pioneering: I was the first who generated and tested sub-ILs!