What is the most exciting part of your project?
That has to be seeing how one specific protein (in my case, a matrix proteoglycan called ‘lumican’) can end up influencing a whole system to such a dramatic extent. This is especially the case when you see the lists and lists of similar biological components that might be performing similar jobs, to the point where it can make you question how important that single protein can be. But then in some experiments, it suddenly becomes blatantly clear how important that one piece of the puzzle is for everything to work together correctly, even if we still need to figure out how – and I find that both fascinating and overwhelming!
Why did you decide to come to IEMR for your PhD?
I happened to be working in Oslo for a short time and actually was planning to move abroad again for my PhD. But when I found the ad for a PhD-position at IEMR, it ticked all the boxes for what I was interested in (interdisciplinary project, studying tissues at molecular biology level all the way up to how it affected function, very good facilities available, regular publications) so I applied regardless.
Visiting IEMR for the interview was what hooked me – the atmosphere was fantastic, very eager people who were enthusiastic and confident to discuss their projects and clearly a very good ability for the groups within the institute to mix and collaborate.
The questions I received on my interview presentation were insightful and down-to-earth, and I could see they took giving feedback and input seriously. These initial observations were all correct, and I feel I have learned a lot more than what I think I would’ve had the opportunity to learn elsewhere. Also, there was a free coffee machine!
What surprised you the most about Norwegian lab culture compared to British?
That is a difficult question to answer, as I might be biased from my perspective as a Master’s student in Manchester as opposed to the next level up as a PhD student in Oslo. However, I do believe that Norwegian lab culture is perhaps more independent than in the UK. It seems from what people have told me that generally, Norwegians are pushed to become more independent from a young age (even in school), whereas I think we have a more hierarchical system. This is something I’ve been encouraged to overcome while working in Norway, and had to learn that it isn’t disrespectful to (politely!) speak my mind and have my own judgement. I feel this has definitely helped me learn to take responsibility for my own work, and has bred more self-confidence in my research as a result.
What would be your advice to new IEMR-members coming from abroad?
Don’t scrimp on buying a good winter coat, invest in a sunrise alarm clock (seriously, cannot stress that one enough), and FYI you have to buy your own cake to share with everyone on your birthday.