What knowledge and skills did you learn during your Master’s that are really useful to you now?
My internship was definitely the most important source for learned and improved skills, such as training rats to complete a complex behavioural task, building and implanting probes, analysing complex electrophysiological data and writing a thesis and grant application. Besides the internship, the courses I followed helped me to better narrow down my interests and obviously improved my general knowledge on a variety of neuroscience topics.
What did you find most challenging in your Master’s?
There is not really a specific thing that I found very challenging, but I can mention two things: 1) I found it hard to prepare well for exams because I am not great at consolidating tons of information, and 2) I sometimes struggled with finding motivation for courses from the moment that I knew what I would do after the Master's programme. At that point, I was not as much interested in the courses, as I was already focused on my upcoming PhD project.
Could you say a little about the job you do now?
During my Master's I applied for the Donders TopTalent Grant, which funds a 4-year PhD project. I am very happy, proud and grateful that I received the grant, as I can now work on my own research topic. I study the oscillatory mechanisms underlying response inhibition by combining behaviour, multi-site intracranial electrophysiology and optogenetics in rats. Things I do on a regular basis are training rats at complex behavioural response inhibition task, programming, building custom-designed probes, implant surgeries, sectioning and analysing brain tissue and analyzing behavioural and electrophysiological data. Besides these activities relevant for my PhD project I am involved in various aspects of teaching.
What do you like about your profession and what makes working in your field so interesting?
What I like the most is the autonomy I have in my daily work, enabling me to study all the things I am interested in. Of course this also depends on the supervisor/promotor, but in my PhD project, I get the opportunity to be responsible, make decisions, manage the overall scope of the research project, etc. Besides becoming a better researcher I can also work on my managing skills and soft skills, which makes me a more complete and capable person. Whether I will continue in science or not, it's without any doubt worth 4 years of my life.
Do you have any tips for prospective students?
I think it's really useful to not only look at the curriculum of the Master's programme but also look at internship possibilities at the Donders Institute already. The majority of education is given by the researchers, so the more you like the different topics within the Donders Institute, the more you will probably like the courses provided in the Master's programme. I also think the internship project is very important, so start early and take plenty of time to investigate what you would like to do, learn and discover during your internship. And last but not least; make full advantage of being at the Donders Institute, it's full of very approachable experts!