Lisette van Os (21) just finished her first year of the Medical and Pharmaceutical Drug Innovation (MPDI) master programme with top marks. Now she is ready for the next step. 'I’m going to California to research the forces and interactions between cells and proteins in fibrosis.'
The master student emphasises that she’s somewhat off the beaten track, considering that within the six tracks MPDI offers, her research does not exactly fit any of them. ‘I chose somewhat of my own path within the master programme. While completing the bachelor Life science & technology I got intrigued by regenerative medicine, which deals with the self-healing of organs and cells. Ultimately, this led me to want to research the role that cells and
the extracellular matrix
play in the lung disease Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF.'
Cells and health
Lisette explains: ‘This disease of the respiratory system causes lung tissue to indurate, eventually filling up the lungs until breathing is impossible. Modern science doesn’t know what exactly causes IPF, only that the matrices surrounding the cells cause them to overproduce proteins, which form scar tissue. Ideally, we would discover a protein to influence the disease so that the cells stay healthy and supple.’
Pauline van Wachem-award
Her supervisor during the research projects is Principal Investigator Janette Burgess, who is specialised in lung disease and regenerative medicine. They already met during Lisette’s bachelor years, and met again in the first period of the master programme. She was the one that urged Lisette to send in an abstract of her research for the annual congress of the Dutch Matrix Biology Society. Not only was Lisette invited to speak to researchers and PhD-students from all over the world, she was also awarded best junior speaker.
‘I will continue the research, but expanded to fibroses in general,’ Lisette states. Her visa for the United States just came through. In November she starts working with Elliot Botvinick, professor in Biomedical Engineering at the university of California Irvine. ‘He has high tech microscopes that can measure the forces and interactions between cells and proteins.’
Choose your track
Does she have any advice for future MPDI students? ‘In the first semester the Principal Investigators introduce the tracks and their specific research interests within these tracks. Oncology, Medical neurosciences and neurological diseases, Infection and immunity, Medical nutrition and metabolic diseases, Medical system biology and bioinformatics and Drug innovation. Choose the track that sparks your interest and aspirations, or find a way to follow your interests outside of the beaten paths. Being “trackless” worked out great for me.’