Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Franziska Goltz

Date of news: 5 July 2023
DSC_3829What's your name, nationality, current function, and department?
My name is Franziska Goltz and I come from a village in the middle of Germany, relatively close (although not really) to Frankfurt. I am currently a first year PhD student at the neurology department of the Radboudumc and Systems Neurology group at the DCCN, under supervision of Rick Helmich. For my project, we collaborate with the Center for Mindfulness at the Psychiatry department, so I am there sometimes as well.

What is the topic of your PhD project and what does your work look like in practice?
In my PhD, we are investigating the influence of stress in Parkinson’s disease (PD), where we are interested in the clinical effects, as well as the cerebral mechanisms underlying the impact of stress in PD. In order to explore that, we are performing a randomized controlled trial, where we hope to reduce stress by mindfulness based cognitive therapy. We follow our patients for a year and are curious to see the effects of the intervention with regards to motor symptoms, cerebral stress reactivity, biochemical markers of stress (inflammation and hair cortisol) and markers of disease progression. In practice, that means that project coordination and planning is a huge aspect of my day-to-day activities. We are hoping to include 124 patients, so (for now) a lot of time goes into recruitment and actually performing the measurements.

What has your career path been so far and how did you come to your current position?
In 2014, I came to Nijmegen for my Bachelor’s in Psychology (classic German in the Netherlands) and initially was planning on going back to Germany after that. However, I loved the Netherlands, Nijmegen and the university here a lot and was also very interested in research and neuropsychology, so I decided to do the cognitive neuroscience masters at the Donders. During my studies, I also went to Norway and the UK for a bit and realized that I really enjoyed doing research and collaboration with different teams. However, I didn’t really have a clue about a specific topic to focus on in my PhD, so I first started as a research assistant at the DCCN for a while. In that position, I learned a lot, got to work on a lot of different projects and different people, among which my current supervisors. Working with them and in their group inspired me a lot and felt like a perfect fit. Long story short, after some months as a junior researcher in that group, I applied for a PhD as soon as there was funding, and luckily enough got accepted.

What aspect of your job is or has been a challenge for you?
I find it hard to balance the project management and researcher tasks sometimes. I love that both are part of my work, but managing the logistics of a project is often is so practiceoriented, that it can be hard so switch to the theoretical viewpoint of the project sometimes (or to even find the time to do so).

Who inspires you the most and why?
Oftentimes, it’s the patients that I work with that inspire me most. They often have such a great perspective on life, despite (and often because of) their diagnosis and all the struggles that come with it. Hearing them telling me stories about their adventures and how they don’t let their Parkinson’s stop them to do the things they love is inspiring. Cheesy but true.

What does your perfect weekend look like?
Waking up late (but not too late) on a sunny morning, going outside and moving or just enjoying the sun, being with my loved ones and having a glass of wine and good food in the evening. Listening to good music and maybe going to an open air concert by sunset.

What is the most important advice you want to share with Donders PhD candidates?
It’s okay to make mistakes.