Summerbreak Series #3 – Becoming a Researcher: Internship at Leiden University Medical Centre

By Quirine Andriessen 

Last year, just before the end of the semester, I realised I had a long summer holiday ahead of me and I had no idea what to do with it. As it is an advantage to have experience in the health care sector when applying for Medical masters – which is what I’m planning on for after UCR -, I figured that it would be wise to do an internship. Therefore, I asked professor Van Overveld if he could help me find a place to do this, and he got me in contact with a Principle Investigator at the Haematology Laboratory at the Leiden University Medical Centre.

My internship was a great success. I calculated the binding affinity of certain molecules to a given component of the immune system, which would hypothetically have an implication on the prognosis of a certain type of cancer. This data I then compared to patient data to see if I could correlate the affinity strength to the prognosis, which would then support the hypothesis. This sounds much simpler than it actually was, because at first, I did not find any correlation at all. However, this does not immediately mean that the hypothesis was wrong, because there are many parameters that influence both the in silico data and the patient data. Therefore, I needed to look very critical at my own work and find ways to neutralize these parameters.


Figure 1 Immunofluorescence staining of tumour tissue was part of my internship this year.

By doing the internship, I learned, for example, how to be critical about your own and someone else’s research, how to write a primary research article, and how to present freshly obtained results to your colleagues and discuss them. These seem to be straightforward skills that we all learn in the ACC 131, 232, and 110 courses. However, to learn these skills more thoroughly, you need to get your hands dirty, by which I mean that you need to learn them by experiencing it in a professional setting.

The most important reason why I enjoyed my internship so much is because the research that I performed was something that hopefully will, in contrast to the numerous literature reviews that we write at UCR, actually make a difference. On top of that, during this internship, I picked up some crucial research and writing skills that you would otherwise not get at UCR. If I compare what I’ve learned during my internships to what I’ve learned at UCR, I can say that UCR provides you with a great deal of knowledge that is a valuable fundament to build on, however, if you have interest in learning how to work with this knowledge, I highly recommend doing an internship.

My supervisor was so happy with my commitment to her research, she asked me to come back this summer to continue on the same part of the research that I was working on last year. This year was definitely a lot tougher than last year, probably because my supervisor asked more of me. This year, I also did a lot of work in the laboratory, and I did many more experiments that all needed to be prepared, performed, and processed, so I spent long days at the laboratory. Many people wondered why I would give up my summer to do an internship, but I think is important to realise, is that in contrast to the semesters where there is always more studying to do, when I got home from my internship, I had the evening off. In fact, the internship made me appreciate my free time more than I would have otherwise.


Figure 2 These are cell cultures of two cell lines I’ve worked with.

As the research is not finished yet, and I greatly doubt it will ever be finished, but that is just part of the nature of research, I keep in contact with my internship supervisor. Hopefully, my name will appear on her next article. What I like about this is that apparently it does not really matter whether you are a Bachelor student, or a PhD student – anyone can take part in prominent research.

Quirine Andriessen, Class of 2018, is a Life Science and Biomedical Science major from Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Featured Image Source: ANP

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