Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Joanna Szopinska-Tokov

Date of news: 31 January 2019

photoWhat's your name, nationality, current function, and department?
Joanna Szopinska-Tokov, Polish, PhD student, Department of Psychiatry (Radboudumc)

What is the topic of your PhD project and what does your work look like in practice?
Generally, I am interested in the role of gut microbiome (bacteria) in host health and disease. To say more, at the moment I am writing a paper about gut microbiome composition in participants with ADHD vs. controls and how certain bacteria are associated with ADHD symptoms (inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity). From the practical point of view, first comes the collection of feces   followed by microbiological and molecular biology analyses after which I am able to identify what kind of microbes are present and how abundant they are.

What aspect of your job is or has been a challenge for you?
They are many things! Generally, being a PhD student means you are facing challenges all the time. To name it, for me was (is) to be an independent researcher. I really had to learn how to control myself not to ask my supervisor for everything that I am doing or planning to do. Now, it is much better, but I am still not there. Another thing was giving a presentation. For me this was like horror! Even if I knew that I practiced enough and I knew well  the topic, each time I was giving presentation  my heart was almost jumping out of my chest and my mind was  creating most horrible scenarios of me failing. So, I decided to give a presentation wherever I can. In two years I gave around 30 presentations (different kinds). And to tell you honestly I feel much better!

What does your perfect weekend look like?
Starting my  day with  an early daily mediation. After that, running and having  a big  breakfast, which will also feed my little friends (gut bacteria). Reading some book. Do my daily practice on a keyboard. Play board games with friends. That’s it. Sounds like a lot, but actually a bit of everything and I have to say that my weekends are almost perfect.

What is the most important advice you want to share with Donders PhD candidates?
For this I would like to cite two quotes: (i) “there is no such thing as failure only learning experiences” and (ii) “balance is not something you find, it’s something you create”. I came to realized that when I have a balance in my life (balance between my work and after-work time) then I am the most productive and effective. I have also learned that there is no success or failure, but gained experiences and constant progress, which gives  me non-ending enthusiasm to continue my carrier with a big smile.

Is there a project or anything you're involved with that you'd like to promote?
Yes. At the moment, I am volunteer in the humanitarian organization “The Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles” and we organized an action “Bikes for Guatemala”. Therefore, I have been collecting bicycles in Nijmegen. Those bicycles will be shipped to Guatemala and given to the victims of the volcano Fuego eruption.  If you have any functional bicycle that you are not using (or you know someone who has it) and you would like to donate it, please let me know (