Category Archives: FOR PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS

Fourth course: Frontiers in Translational Medicine (Part-2)

Project

The second aspect of this course was the group project. The aim of this project was to get hands on experience in various techniques that we learned during the course and to experience life of a researcher. The project was performed in groups of 6 students. Each group was assigned a technique based on which the experiment had to be designed and each member of the group was assigned a specific role. The technique assigned to the group and individual role was mostly based on a poll conducted earlier. The techniques covered were, CRISPR, FACS, Immunofluorescence based microscopy, and qPCR.

For example, my group was assigned the FACS technique and we had a communicator, a coordinator, technical experts, scientific responsible and a data analyst.
As a group we had to design a simple research question that could be answered using FACS. Once we had the question, we made a list of materials required. We were given a strict budget of 10000kr. The challenge was to stick to the budget and still be able to have a realistic research question that can be answered. Fortunately, to guide us we were assigned mentors who are experts in that particular technique.
The first pitch of our research proposal was just before the Christmas holidays to our faculty. After approval of the proposal, list of required materials was ordered so that it would arrive by the time university reopens after the holidays.
We had four days to perform our experiments and a day to analyze data and prepare for the final presentation.
On the first day, after making a detailed plan of the experimental timeline and collecting our order we started with our experiments.

Here is our group member (Diana) preparing to transfect cells PC: Luca

Finally on the day of presentation, each group presented their research project and various difficulties that they had faced. As this was the first independent venture into designing a project for most of us, everything did not turned out as we speculated.

However, this experience taught us about various practical difficulties and limitations that can be learned only by experience. For example, estimating experimental efficiency in the lower range, etc. Further, we learned to handle situations, work in teams, come up with last minute alternative plans or design fall back plans. And last but not the least to troubleshoot our experiment.

Final presentation by CRISPR group.

At the end of all the presentations we had a final feedback session with faculties from every subject at Karolinska Institute. We discussed and gave suggestion on how the courses can be improved and what part of the course were specifically helpful. As this is relatively new course, the administration and the faculties are very enthusiastic and take feedback on improving the course structure and content based on the student feedback very seriously, so that the new batch of students can get the best with relative ease.

Batch photo with the course coordinators (Louisa Cheung, Anton Larsson,Fulya Taylan and Lars Arne)
Credit: Gunter

Fourth course: Fromtiers in Translational Medicine (Part-1)

The final course at Karolinska is Frontiers in Translational Medicine or FTM. This course is of 16.5 credits and thus the longest course.

The course has two main aspects:

1) The theory lectures and facility visits

2) Project

Today I will be talking about the theory lectures and facility visits.

The course is designed to give an introduction to various fields of research in complex diseases and the application of next generation high throughput techniques to develop improved therapeutic approaches that can be eventually used in clinics.

Initially, we were introduced to various types of animal models such as  Mice and Zebra fish. We also visited the zebra fish facility at KI and learned about the breeding techniques, and its potential applications in research.

Zebra fish facility at KI
Source: Presentation slides (Zebra fish facility)

In the following weeks we lectures on various advanced molecular techniques such as FACS, CRISPR Cas-9 system and a special lecture on Organ-on-Chip. In the same week we also had our first lab of the programme. The objective of this lab was to get hands on experience in genotyping techniques. We performed genotyping in groups of 5 per team, using two techniques: Pyrosequencing and Taqman based sequencing. The samples we used were from a patient, donated for research study. Post lab, we did some troubleshooting and tried to hypothesize the possible cause of deviation from the expected results, carried out from previous studies.

One of the most interesting part of the course was the Proteomics Day. We  had lectures in the morning from various researchers from the proteomics core facility at Scilife Labs. They talked about techniques used for proteomics studies. One of the lecture was on the development of the Human Protein Atlas. Post lunch we visited the proteomics facilities and explored the labs and various equipment such as FACS, CyTOF (Mass cytometer), Confocal Microscopes and its variations, specialized instruments to perform ELISA analysis, and last but not the least Mass Spectrometer.

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Third course: Applied Programming for Life Sciences

The third course at Karolinska Institute is the Programming course. As the programme of MTLS is heavy in computational biology, this course is of utmost importance. The course focuses on python programming. It is a short course of 1.5 credits on the basics of programming and gives an insight on how the same can be applied in handling biological data sets.

The main idea of this course is to familiarize students with the programming language- python and prepare for the next semester courses on Bioinformatics.

The course is designed such that students who have little or no prior knowledge of programming can start writing basic codes to perform simple tasks of generating the complementary strands of the DNA/RNA, search for a particular sequence in the given DNA sample, etc.

The first day of the course includes introduction to python and the instruction to install. In the further classes we learn to print strings, understand different data types and the type of data structures. Later in the course we also learn to handle data and perform statistical tests and generate graphs for representing various results.

The structure of the class is very flexible. In the mornings we had lectures where we were introduced to a new topic and post lunch we had exercises that were related to the topics. We had to solve the exercises in  the classroom to pass the course. However, it was made very was designed to encourage learning and applying. As beginners in python programming, we faced difficulties in applying what we had learned, so the TA’s helped us solve the problems and errors that we faced while solving the exercise. I have personally tired learning python from many online courses, but this was the best learning experience. The main reason was that the TA’s gave individual attention to each student and guided according to their problem at respective steps, unlike the tutorials or solutions that give only a single way to solve the problem. And many times it is not the approach that we use.

We also had a final exam at the end of the course, where we had few challenging questions. One such question was to convert the given DNA sequence to protein sequence. It was really fun and challenging to accomplish that as a beginner. Few days after the exam we had planned a secret Santa party in our class, where we wrote a python code to assign the secret Santa to everyone.

The course was really helpful to learn or refresh basics. It helped me feel more confident about programming and Bioinformatics courses in the next semester.

Application Check List

With the deadlines approaching for the application, I would like to inform you about the application requirements and provide with checklist for last minute reference.

The application for the master’s programme in Molecular Techniques in Life Sciences can be done through KTH Royal Institute of Technology, as it is the host Institute for our joint programme.  It is easy to find on the University admissions application website by searching the key words ‘Molecular Techniques’. Choose the programme that shows 120 credits and hosted by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

Further, as an applicant, having good grades in Bachelor studies and a complete summary sheet is very important. You can find the detailed list of all requirements and specifics on the programme website. I have also made a checklist to ensure that you do not miss any important  document that needs to be submitted for a complete application.

Checklist

  1. Passport
  2. English Proficiency test (Test scores should be sent to the Institute officially through the testing services)
  3. Degree Certificate (If you have not received the degree certificate, then alternatively a provisional certificate can be uploaded)
  4. Academic Transcripts
  5. Curriculum Vitae
  6. Letter of Recommendation (minimum: 1, maximum: 3)
  7. Summary sheet
  8. Documentation of relevant work experience (if any)

Please note that everything listen needs to be scanned and uploaded in the documents section. The scan should be of the original documents (Not from the xerox).

You can find more information on writing motivation letter in the summary sheet and English proficiency test in previous blogs.

If you have any specific questions regarding the application then feel free to contact me.

Second Course: Applied Communication

The course of applied communication is one of the best courses at KI. It is a course that focuses on the development of individual’s ability to communicate scientific knowledge. It can be often observed that a groundbreaking research when poorly presented makes it unappealing to the audience. Thus, presenting one’s research in an engaging way is of utmost importance. The course of applied communication targets to do the same.

The course is very well designed to cover various aspects of communication. The course starts with Poster presentation, Scientific writing, Rhetorics and ends with Bioethics. Each section is explored in an interactive manner over a period of a week.

In the first week we started with introduction to Poster Presentation. We were divided into groups and given a list of research paper to a select from. After few weeks of preparation, we presented to our peers in an interactive and constructive feedback session. We were able to see and understand the use of different styles of organizing the posters.

Here is an example: My group’s poster

Further, in the course we had lectures on Scientific communication. In these sessions we learned about practical details of screening papers for literature review, reading, writing and finally publishing papers. We gained practical experience of peer review during the course. Each of us had to write an abstract from an already published paper. Then we were assigned a peer reviewer (fellow classmate) to send it for a detailed review. The reviewer had to read the paper, assess the abstract and write a report on the same. This report was later discussed in a group as a constructive feedback.

An example of peer reviewed abstract.

Coming to the best part of the course; the Rhetorics session. Our first session was a body language class. A dramatics director and performer from Uppsala University was our instructor for the day. We started with freeing our body with small exercises, and actions in form of a game. Later, we performed an exercise to amplify our voice and feel more confident to speak. It was hilarious, as it was making funny, weird, loud noises that are of different tones and pitches.

After all the body and sound exercises, we explored the aspect of details and imagination. One week before the class we were asked to prepare two things. One of which was to recollect a memory that would include adventures or different experiences. We had to narrate our memory to our peers with maximum details like the description of the landscape, life style of people around, auditory cues, olfactory elements, etc. so that they can live and experience the same feeling sitting inside the room. At the end, the listeners were to describe the feeling they experienced during the narration.

The post lunch session we integrated everything we learned in the morning to our acts. We had to present a poem or a song of our choice that we were asked to prepare in advance as the second task. Except it had to be expressed with all the emotions to make the audience give a feeling of actually living the experience. There were various suggestions and improvements made to this by the audience and or instructor.

The poem I choose depicted struggle, and in order to show that, we did something out of the box. I was being held back by two friends and I had to try moving: depicting the struggle. In the second round I did it without anyone holding me back. This enabled me how simple things can be done to improve one’s expression on stage.

Me, acting in the Rhetorics class                                                                PC: Vijay

Later in the week we also had a chance to practice the same with scientific presentations and try innovative things. We learned the difference styles of presenting specific to the type of audience.

 

This course helped us learn about the importance of presenting in correct style to the respective audience. It was not only a chance to learn, but also to develop one’s confidence on stage and in daily life. It filled us with new energy for the new courses.