Can we generate new organs from cells? How do biological molecules such as proteins and DNA work? Do you wonder to what extent it is possible to produce better medicine, enzymes or food using biotechnology?
In this degree programme in Life Science and Technology you will
learn how to find answers to questions like these. This degree
programme combines elements from a variety of disciplines,
including biology, pharmacy, physics, chemistry and engineering.
You will learn how to use this knowledge to create medical
applications that make people better or improve their quality of
Our students and researchers study the intricate details of living organisms, but also try to build life-like systems from molecules that are not alive. If we are able to build such a synthetic cell we will understand the requirements for life much better, and we might be able to use these cells as factories for new bio-molecules. These are just a few examples of the things we explore. By the time you start this programme, numerous other new research projects will undoubtedly have started up. You’re bound to find something that arouses your interest.
There is still so much to discover
I currently work as a PhD student in the Molecular Microbiology group, under the supervision of Dr Billerbeck (billerbecklab.com). During my undergraduate studies, I followed course units in general subjects such as ecology, maths, biochemistry and genetics, plus a Minor in medicine, and I found myself intrigued by immunology and microbiology.
I took part in the IGEM competition and started to develop an interest in synthetic biology and biotechnology. I really enjoyed all the research internships during my Master’s degree programme Medical and Pharmaceutical Drug Innovation, so I knew I wanted to continue in that direction.
We work with killer toxins. These proteins are produced by yeast, which likely helps to compete for nutrients by killing other yeast and fungi in its environment. Killer toxins are interesting for many reasons, one particular reason being the rise in antimicrobial resistance, which urges the need for novel effective antimicrobial compounds. Some killer toxins can kill important human pathogens, such as Candida glabrata, and may be helpful in fighting these infections in the future. We isolate yeast from the environment to find novel killer toxins, investigate the properties, activity and function of these toxins, and use directed evolution to engineer them.
When I arrive at work in the morning, I usually check whether the yeast or bacteria for my experiment have grown, or I analyse the results of experiments carried out the day before. We meet weekly to discuss our results and to help each other solve any problems we may have come across. I spend part of the day in the lab, doing experiments, and part in the office, analysing the data on the computer or planning new experiments.
It is amazing to see how life works at the molecular level, and there is still so much to discover about the world that we live in! Hopefully, what we learn will help us to build a better and more sustainable world. We have the freedom to follow our curiosity, to come up with hypotheses and to try them out in the lab. I like how my work is both theoretical and practical. Sometimes, when you encounter problems during experiments, it takes some time to figure things out – but with a little patience and perseverance, we are usually able to solve any challenges together.
An opportunity to develop myself
As a student in Groningen, there are lots of opportunities to become active in your student life by joining one of the many committees that exist for all types of associations or within the University. I became active within GLV Idun, the study association for Biology, Biomedical Engineering and Life Science and Technology.
Over the years, I have been a member of several committees, where I organized fun activities for the association and learnt a lot about teamwork and planning. I am currently the chair of the association’s board. I not only became a board member to have a fun year, but I considered it an opportunity to develop myself and learn more about the structural organization of study associations and the University. I am able to work closely with my fellow board members and learn more about leadership, teamwork and communicative skills.
I can definitely recommend students doing something beside their studies. During your student life, you will have enough freedom to do whatever you want. It is not only a great way of meeting new people; you are also able to learn one or two things that can be quite useful in your future career. Whether you become active at a study association, student association or a student sports association, it will be a great experience.
After wrapping up my board year, I would like to start my Master’s degree programme in Biomedical Sciences in Groningen. The fact that the programme collaborates closely with the University Medical Center Groningen, where ground-breaking research is being performed, makes me very excited and it is something I wish to be involved in. I am looking forward to further developing my scientific skills and working in a medical-oriented environment.