A Future in Biomedicine: an “enriching, formative and constructive” experience

A future in biomedicine 2015 students: Pau de Jorge, Anna Ferrer, Eduard Puig, Enric Ros, Jordi Coste
A future in biomedicine 2015 students: Pau de Jorge, Anna Ferrer, Eduard Puig, Enric Ros, Jordi Coste

The students enrolled in the second edition of A Future in Biomedicine have just completed their academic year at IRB Barcelona. On 7 June, the five scientists presented the research projects they carried out at IRB Barcelona during their 8-month internships. While pipetting in the lab, they continued to study for their last year of degree at their respective universities. Enric Ros, who worked in Xavier Salvatella's lab, and Anna Ferrer, who joined Angel Nebreda's lab, talk to in vivo about their journey.

The five students enrolled in the second edition of A Future in Biomedicine have just completed their 8-month internships at IRB Barcelona. On 7 June, they presented the research projects carried out during that time. While pipetting in the lab, they also continued working on their last year of their degree studies at their respective universities.

The day they presented the fruits of their efforts to the IRB Barcelona community was an exciting moment, as two of them told in vivo.  Enric Ros, who is finishing a 5-year degree in Pharmacy at the University of Barcelona, worked in Xavier Salvatella’s Molecular Biophysics lab on a project that was designed specifically for him for this programme. “I had to identify a protein-protein interaction between the androgen receptor and a general transcription factor,” he explains. The androgen receptor is a key protein studied in the lab. Enric learnt how to purify the transcription factor, biophysically analyse the proteins of interest and characterise them. “But we had little luck as we didn’t detect any interaction,” he says.

Anna Ferrer is also about to complete her 4-year degree at the University of Barcelona—in her case in the field of biology. She spent her internship in Raúl Méndez’s Translation Control of Cell Cycle and Differentiation lab working on the CPEB family of proteins, the focus of research performed in this lab. “I studied how CPEB3 was expressed in different adult tissues using a mouse model,” she explains, “and I looked at the organs where we could find higher concentration of the protein.” She then focussed on the testicles, where most protein is found, and addressed how the protein  affects spermatogenesis and meiosis.

Both students emphasise that this programme has been a “turning point” in their lives as potential future scientists, “the first contact with real research,” as they put it. “Usually the degree theses that our colleagues work on are pre-prepared and you just have to execute them,” they say, “but in this case, we all had exciting research projects, within broader research lines at the Institute. We even had some degree of independence  like the other scientists in the lab and top-level supervision.” Maybe one day the results from their projects may even become part of published papers.

Three adjectives define his experience at IRB Barcelona, according to Enric: “enriching, formative and constructive.” He has decided that he would like to do a PhD at IRB Barcelona next year, while Anna will be heading to Heidelberg in Germany  to do a master’s degree. “It was also interesting to meet the other students participating in the A Future in Biomedicine programme,” adds Enric, “because we are all quite different people, and with different ideas about our future. While we all share a common passion for science, which this programme greatly enhanced, we will follow very different paths.”

Apart from IRB Barcelona and Germany, other students will be going to the US and France. Science aside, for Anna and Enric, one of the most interesting experiences during these months has been the exchange they had with the Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (RIMLS) in Nijmegen, Netherlands, with which IRB Barcelona has a long-standing collaboration. In April, four of the students in the programme were invited to this prestigious centre to find out about their master’s course.  “It was a very nicely organised visit, and we had a chance to learn from the students there how the  master’s programme works,” concludes Anna.