In this series of spotlight items, we take a closer look at one of the research groups at Groningen Cardiology. Who runs them, which topics do they investigate, and what is it like to be part of them as a PhD candidate? Last Monday, we posted the interview with Rudolf de Boer, and today the interview with Sanne, one of his PhD candidates.
During your studies, did you know you wanted to do a PhD?
This is actually an interesting question, because I started to develop an interest in doing a PhD during my third year of my bachelor Biology and Medical Research at the Hanze Hogeschool. I realized that I was looking for more than what my current study was providing and most lecturers enthusiastically spoke about their experiences of doing a PhD. This motivated me to continue my studies and start a pre-master and master in biomedical sciences. So to answer the question, yes I was motivated early on during my studies to do a PhD.
Now, you are one of Rudolf’s PhD students, how did you end up at the cardiology department?
During my master’s, my internships were focused on metabolic diseases and nutritional sciences. First I thought I wanted to pursue a career in this field but after I finished my masters I started looking for vacancies for PhD positions on a broader scale. On the UMCG website I came across the vacancy from the cardiology department, which focused on the relation between heart failure and cancer. I had no experience with heart failure research but I was enthusiastic about the combination of different diseases and the systemic effects. Therefore I decided to apply for the job.
You are part of the SECRETE-HF team, investigating the relationship between heart failure and cancer, how do you experience working in a team with other researchers that are all focused on a similar topic?
This is something I really enjoy. There is a really good atmosphere at the department and within our team there is also good collaboration. With regards to the research, the SECRETE group research is a little bit different from the other research performed at the Experimental Cardiology department. Our focus is not only on the heart but also on cancer and the systemic effects. Working on this together with several other PhD students and postdoctoral researchers with different backgrounds really allows us to have open discussions, which lead to new ideas or solutions to current problems.
What do you enjoy most about doing a PhD?
One of the aspects of doing a PhD is that you are focused on one topic of which you become the expert. You start the project and finish it until the end. Working on something from A to Z is what I really enjoy and is also something that is very fulfilling. Another aspect is that I am now also able to supervise master students myself. Educating students about research and how to perform accurate research is also a fun part of the job!
And what do you dislike the most? And how do you cope with this?
Sometimes the workload can be heavy. The difficult thing about research is that even if you work really hard, the outcome can still be disappointing. Setting up new projects can be time consuming and the results can also deviate from the expectations. How I cope with this, is by exercising! Playing hockey or going for a run can help me get rid of the frustrations. Sanne’s tip, go jogging in Stadspark.
How do you combine the pressure of your PhD with your personal life?
Balancing work with personal life is something which is valuable to me. In order to keep this balance I make sure to plan enough activities with friends after working hours or in the weekends. This helps me to set my mind to things other than work, which reduces stress and makes sure I can start the next day fresh.