Careers at UMC Utrecht

PhD Candidate, Neuroscience

Direct effect

I received my Bachelor’s degree in Biophysics in India. Because I was interested in studying abroad, I went to Germany to obtain my Master’s degree in Bioinformatics. During my Master’s study, I did research on Stem Cell-derived Neurons. It was then that I developed a strong interest in Neuroscience, and wanted to pursue my PhD in that field.
I originally began my PhD work at the University of Amsterdam with Professor Marian Jöels, and I was quite pleased when she accepted a position at UMC Utrecht, and moved our team there.
Our work in Amsterdam was in a research-only environment. But at UMC Utrecht, we can combine our scientific work with the clinical aspects of Neuroscience, and we have a direct connection to patient care. In such a vast and complex field, it is very motivating to see the direct effect of our work in a clinical setting.

Isolating the neuron

The primary focus of my research is related to the Patch Clamp Technique, a method of monitoring and recording the electrical activity and behavior of a single neuron. With this method, we can isolate the effects of medications, treatments and environmental factors on specific areas of the brain at a cellular level.
In my work, I focus specifically on the effects of stress on learning and memory. It is fundamental research on how corticosteroids affect the activity of neurons in the hippocampus – the memory center of the brain. I focused first on the underlying mechanism of how these stress hormones influence the neurons, and later how extreme conditions, like chronic stress, affect both neuronal activity and the mechanisms.

Contact and collaboration

Oftentimes, you can feel lost in a large institution. But at UMC Utrecht, you have plenty of opportunities to make contact with other departments and to collaborate with other scientists. It’s a highly motivating environment, because all resources are open to you. The possibilities to meet a variety of people, to improve and to expand your research are everywhere.
My research has been enhanced by my ability to work with geneticists, statisticians and psychologists who offer support by sharing their knowledge and experience. Instead of a competitive, secretive research environment, UMC Utrecht is a place of friendly collaboration, where opportunities to learn and share are all around us.

Often, there are also guest speakers who share their expertise with us, as well. That helps to expand your network and create contacts that can help you in your career.

Forward to the future

It’s evident that UMC Utrecht is working towards the goal of being the best Neuroscience division by 2015. In the three years that I’ve been here, I’ve seen vast improvements in technology, resources and scientific exploration. The very best scientists are coming here, and are bringing their state-of-the-art research and technology with them.
This also has a clear benefit for the patients who come to UMC Utrecht for Neurological treatment. In addition to the highest standards of care, patients will experience a highly organized and friendly environment that focuses on making the patient feel comfortable, relaxed and understood. Of course, that is critical to a positive patient experience.

A wealth of possibilities

Researchers looking for a place to pursue their PhD should look no further than UMC Utrecht. In addition to the atmosphere of friendly collaboration, UMC Utrecht offers an environment where the focus is not only on your accomplishments, but also on the areas where you need support.
UMC Utrecht is an environment where ideas are shared openly, and individuals can expand on those ideas and seek out their own research opportunities. In addition, PhD candidates can take advantage of the growing Graduate School program, where candidates are encouraged to take courses outside of their field of concentration. This provides a full, well-rounded education that serves to strengthen your overall research goals.