Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Eva Klimars

Date of news: 2 March 2018

Eva_KlimarsFor this month's The Life Of…, we interviewed Eva Klimars. After having finished her CNS master’s here at the Donders, followed by a research assistantship, Eva is now a PhD student at the DCMN, in the Systems Neurology group run by Rick Helmich.

What's your name, nationality, current function, and department?
Eva Klimars, German, PhD student, Department of Neurology (DCMN)

What is the topic of your PhD project and what does your work look like in practice?
During my PhD I will be exploring the neurological basis of Parkinson tremor. In particular, I want to unravel the role of the noradrenergic system in the worsening of the tremor during stress using EMG-fMRI and test the hypothesis that the noradrenergic system amplifies tremulous activity in the cerebello-thalamo-cortical circuit. Moreover, by combining fMRI with transcranial alternating current stimulation, I will investigate the circuit-level causal mechanisms underlying Parkinson’s tremor. My ultimate goal is to establish an imaging-based tremor model for individual patients, allowing clinicians to select a tailored treatment for each individual patient. It is hard to briefly summarized all the activities that are part of my PhD project. Just this much: I will spend a vast amount of time in behavioral and MRI lab in the basement of the DCCN and there are many different kinds of cables involved.

What did you want to be when you were younger?
Even though I never seriously considered it, when I was younger I thought of becoming an actress. I was fascinated by people's ability to jump into a new role and making it completely their own. But luckily in the end I chose another career path, because, to put it nicely, regarding my acting skills there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Who are you working with and what do these collaborations look like?
I am a member of the Systems Neurology group of the DCCN and I work on Parkinson's disease under supervision of Rick Helmich. I also work together with Freek Nieuwhof, who additionally supervises me on one of my projects, because we are both doing tremor research. As his study on distonic and essential tremor has overlap with my research and we are largy using the same methods we can have a frequent exchange of ideas about our study designs and analysis from which I learn a lot.

What aspect of your job do you excel at?
I think that I am good at keeping track of the many different tasks, which I have to do more or less simultaneously and I can prioritize them appropriately. This comes in handy as during my PhD I will conduct two studies, mostly in parallel and I will have to balance all work responsibilities.

What aspect of your job is or has been a challenge for you?
Just as many other scientists according to my experience I am a bit of a perfectionist. So I had (and still have) to learn to sometimes settle for a bit less. But fortunately, I have wonderful supervisors, who always help me out when I am loosing myself in the details.

What does your perfect weekend look like?
My perfect weekend starts with waking up from the morning sun shining into my room. Getting up and meeting some friends for an extensive brunch in the city center. Then I would stroll around, maybe do some shopping. Afterwards I would go home and start dinner preparations for one of these delicious dishes that take ages to prepare, for example my not fully traditional version of a Hungarian goulash. The next day I would wake up to more wonderful weather, go outside for a walk or do some sports and then spend the rest of the weekend with rather relaxing activities, e.g., read a book, play cards with friends or watch a movie.

What is the most important advice you want to share with Donders PhD candidates?
Try to find a good work-life balance and a way to relieve stress. Also, don't be too hard on yourself when something is not going as planned. It happens and most of us have been there.

What do you wish you would have known when you started your PhD project?
I wish I had known the extent of all the preparation that is required for the techniques I am using during my research. Turns out I will spend more time preparing for the test sessions than it will take to conduct the actual experiments.

Do you have any handy PhD project-related tips and tricks to share?
My advice is to also read outside the borders of your own research topic. This is because a broader understanding of the field will help you engage with other scientists and also make it easier to follow all the interesting talks frequently given at the Donders. Moreover, this knowledge might help you to think out-of-the-box and solve problems more efficiently. I also have some general, not that much PhD project-related, advice. We all know that feeling when deadlines are approaching and thanks to time pressure motivation is suddenly easy to find. So from time to time there comes a day where I am eager to finish some work and decide to stay at work a bit longer. That is when my, now no longer secret, food stash comes in handy. I always have some extra food (e.g., nuts, fruit and cookies) in my office in to serve as fuel for long workdays.

What is the worst work-related mistake you made and how did you rebound from that?
I have only been working as a PhD student for half a year and thankfully in that time I have not yet made any work-related mistakes worth mentioning. But a while ago, when I was still a master's student, I made a decision which put me through quite some trouble. For my master's internship I decided to join a rather risky project in the sense that it was not expected to progress very fast and produce good quality data in the short-term. Unfortunately, over the course of time a number of problems built up, to an extent that fixing all of them became very time intensive and therefore, it was no longer feasible as project for a relatively short master's internship. After already having invested a lot of time and effort, I still stood there empty-handed. This frustrating experience taught me that even in well-planned projects things can go wrong and the outcome can sometimes be unpredictable. But, thankfully I also did a second internship that added a great deal of positivity to the picture and I quickly re-discovered my enthusiasm for doing science. However, since then I put more thought into having a back-up plan.

Is there a project or anything you're involved with that you'd like to promote?
Yes! I am a new member of the Donders Wonders, the official weblog of the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour. Check it out for some short and refreshing tales about the brain and science. I am looking forward to contributing to this blog in the future.