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‘I couldn’t even boil an egg’

Two days before the deadline, someone pointed Sabrina Suhani to the Eric Bleumink Fund. A last minute application resulted in her first stay abroad ever. In Groningen, Sabrina is investigating the bacterium staphylococcus aureus. And she views the local academic ways with special interest.

Sabrina Suhani thinks that Sylhet, the city in North-East Bangladesh from which she comes, resembles Groningen. Calm, friendly and polite. Sabrina (30) grew up in Sylhet, attended university and became a staff member of its department of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. Last summer, Sabrina came to Groningen with a grant from the Eric Bleumink Fund for a two-year Master’s degree programme in Biomedical Sciences. ‘Until then, I hadn't been alone or anywhere other than in Sylhet. In Bangladesh, we live with our parents until we are married that’s our culture. You could call me a nerdy person. I couldn’t even boil an egg. But sometimes you don't want to think about the risks, just close your eyes and go!’

Photo: Gerhard Taatgen
Photo: Gerhard Taatgen

Sabrina is enjoying her stay in Groningen, although she is also going through a hard time. Her mother is ill and undergoing chemotherapy and her father also has health problems. The distance between them makes this extra hard. But her parents are delighted with their daughter’s drive. ‘This is what they dreamed for me. My mother says: You have to live your own life.’

In Sylhet, Sabrina was also working on the subject that she is now working on in a lab at the UMCG: bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. In Bangladesh, she looked for the reason for the resistance; here, she is trying to develop a therapy to break the resistance of the infamous bacterium staphylococcus aureus. She would like to bring samples from her home country to investigate. ‘In Bangladesh and other Asian countries, the bacterium is even more resistant than here because Asian people take much more antibiotics.’

Sabrina is hoping to obtain a PhD position in the Netherlands. ‘I long for the word “doctor” in front of my name.’ But first she has to go back to her department in Bangladesh, which had given her two years’ study leave. Becoming a successful researcher in a country that collaborates with leading foreign universities is her dream for the future.

Strengthening the scientific climate in Bangladesh is one of her specific goals. When asked what she means by that, Sabrina says that she is absorbing every little detail about the do’s and don’ts of Dutch academia. ‘For instance, I would like to share the recipe of how a large lab is run by a lot of PhD students to my students in Bangladesh.’

She is inspired by how UG lecturers interact with their students. ‘You can go to them with any question that you have. They convey their knowledge to you but then leave the rest to you. They don't dictate.’

Universities in Bangladesh are more hierarchical. ‘Lecturers are quite formal. In the Netherlands they are funnier. Lots of body language and gestures. You can also eat in class and drink coffee, that does not happen in Bangladesh.’

Text: Ellis Ellenbroek

Last modified:06 April 2020 9.09 p.m.
View this page in: Nederlands