Master's internships for medical students are often headed by a senior researcher (and PhD candidate), while the student does the fieldwork. Karlijn took a different approach: she designed her research project with remarkable independence, intending to map the microscopic characteristics of a rare muscle disease (Nemaline myopathy type 6). Neurologist Nicol Voermans is her supervisor: 'I regularly supervise Master's students during their scientific internship and Karlijn stands out.' Voermans prizes her for taking initiative. 'Karlijn is looking beyond the laboratory. As a student, she is already showing the level I expect from a PhD candidate. And you can tell she is having a great time.'
Karlijn: 'Thanks to this honours programme, I was able to take advantage of more opportunities to prepare for a research track.' The extra time - and money - allowed her to double the three-month research internship of the standard curriculum and she was also encouraged to develop her ideas. One aspect of the track involved presenting plans to a critical committee, which brought her even closer to her dreams of being an independent researcher. 'You learn to be even more discerning about your research.'
Combining the research internship in her curriculum with the honours programme eventually led her to the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, a renowned institute in Paris, where she was able to work with prominent researchers in her field for six months. 'I might have been able to do that some other way too, but the honours programme made it easier to go to Paris.' And Paris was another stepping stone: she learned to be independent and simultaneously work together with researchers from many different backgrounds. Due to these experiences, she can start her PhD right after graduation, studying the natural progression of two rare muscle diseases (SELENON and LAMA-2 congenital muscular dystrophy).
Nicol Voermans wishes honours education had already been available back when she was a student. She found a different way to broaden her studies by attending Studium Generale lectures and studying philosophy after getting her first degree. Still, honours provides something the standard curriculum lacks, although the Bachelor's programmes in the Faculty of Medical Sciences have started encouraging students to start thinking about their research ambitions sooner. 'It's amazing that honours is giving students like Karlijn that extra push to do more extensive research.'
The Master's research project Karlijn conducted on the microscopic characteristics of nemaline myopathy type 6 was co-financed by the Prinses Beatrix Spierfonds Foundation. Her PhD research on two rare muscle diseases (SELENON and LAMA-2 congenital muscular dystrophy) is co-financed by the Stichting Voor Sara Foundation and the Spieren voor Spieren Foundation.