News - June 1, 2017

‘People in the UK can be arrogant’

Carina Nieuwenweg

Who? Tianhe Wang (but you can call him Mark), Master’s student of Molecular Life Sciences, from China
What? Five-month internship at the University of Glasgow
Where? Glasgow, Scotland, UK

‘Before I came to the Netherlands, I applied to the University of Glasgow. Unfortunately I could not go there because I didn’t have funding. After starting my Master’s in Wageningen I took the chance to do an internship in Glasgow. I have visited several countries while studying in Europe but I had never been to the UK.

The reason I like the University of Glasgow is because it is a very famous university with a long history. In my research group they are working on building an artificial cell and their results are very promising and interesting. My project is about the use of artificial cells for purification purposes in waste water remediation. The first step is to allow the system to sense heavy metal ions. I am trying to build a simple genetic circuit into a cell-free system: a tool that allows us to study biological reactions that happen within the cell, without other complex interactions in the background.

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I really enjoy doing synthetic biology. I can use my creativity in trying to create something new, like products, biofuel and biopharmaceuticals. This was also one of the reasons that I came to the Netherlands, where we have really good synthetic biology groups. I am hoping to continue in this field as a PhD student after my Master’s. 

Going from the Netherlands to the UK was not a big step but I did notice some differences. In our own microbiology department in Wageningen there are many technicians and everything is well organized. In my current lab there is a lot of nice equipment but only one lab manager. It is difficult for him to manage everything and if we have a problem, we have to wait a long time before it is fixed. Also, the risk assessment here in Scotland is stricter. Before I could start doing lab work, I had to fill in a lot of forms.

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In the UK, I started to realize that Dutch people might be the friendliest people in Europe because people in the UK sometimes seem arrogant. There was less culture shock for me in the Netherlands. The only culture shock I had was the strange Dutch food and the way people say “bless you” when someone sneezes.’