I’ve just flown back to the UK after finishing my 12-week internship in the Department of Totipotency at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry - here are my reflections on the experience!
I applied to the Max Planck Summer Internship Program because I wanted to gain first-hand research experience, meet other like-minded students from all over the world, and speak to world-leading scientific researchers about what day-to-day research in biochemistry is like, while contributing to it myself. Over the past 12 weeks I’ve had the opportunity to do all of this, and had a great time doing so.
I got to learn lots of different techniques such as microinjecting mice oocytes and CUT&Tag, and I also had an insight into what the discussion process in research is like, by both attending the lab’s journal club meetings and general meetings, and also presenting my own work. I’ve definitely become a better scientist, and developed my resilience for when experiments don’t work - failure is very common in science, and it takes a long time for results to come. The MPIB also hosts talks by researchers from other places, and these were a great opportunity to learn about research in different fields such as neurobiology and immunology.
I really appreciated the opportunity to speak to the PhD students in the lab about their experiences since I’m planning on doing a PhD after my masters, and I’m very grateful to them for being so lovely and welcoming to me! At the weekends I often went bouldering with them, and the evening before we left we all went to a vegan sushi restaurant together. It was also fantastic to meet other students from all over the world - USA, Hungary, Italy, Greece, Serbia, India, and Germany itself. At the weekends when I wasn’t in the lab we travelled to lots of different places, both inside and outside of Munich, and I’ve made friends for life.
I also learnt that you should apply for opportunities even if you don’t think you’ll get it - when I spoke to the other interns about what our applications and interviews for the program were like, what stuck out to me was the common theme that no one thought that they would get it. One of the points listed in the internship’s application as “strongly recommended” was to have prior research experience - I didn’t have this, and explained why in my application (COVID meant my internship last year fell through), and wrote about one of the bioinformatics practicals we did in third year as an example of a “research project”. I also wrote about my experiences that I thought would be helpful in the lab, for example I have learnt to row at Oxford and been a rowing captain, so wrote about how I can learn quickly, work in a team, and have excellent time management skills. This is a great way to demonstrate transferable skills, especially when you haven’t had lab time outside of practicals.
I’m very grateful to the Tachibana lab for taking me on as a summer student and giving me this fantastic opportunity. I’m really excited to start my masters project, and to start applying for PhD programs now I know that research is what I want to be part of.