Who? Sandra Abbo, Master’s student of Biotechnology
What? Research on the role of fumarate hydratase in cancer
Where? Cambridge, England
‘In Cambridge I did research at the MRC Cancer Unit on how mutations in the metabolic enzyme fumarate hydratase can lead to cancer. Once you know what the mechanism is, you can develop therapies and help cancer patients. It was my task to find out how the mechanism worked. It was certainly hard work because in Cambridge they expect a bit more of students than they do in Wageningen. Working over the weekend, for example, is more socially acceptable there. And they also assume you will understand everything superfast.
There are lots of plusses to doing an internship in Cambridge. One of them is the fact that it’s a historic university. Darwin and Newton studied there and that is reflected in the various statues and photos, and the lecture halls named after them. The rest of the campus is very beautiful too, with large old buildings. The building I worked in was very modern, though. Luckily it is located a little way away from the campus, otherwise it would look out of place.
One thing that struck me was the rivalry between Cambridge and Oxford. I knew there was rivalry between their rowing teams but I didn’t know it existed between scientists as well. When I told a couple of my fellow interns I was going to Oxford for a day, they said, ‘Surely you’re not going there!’ I didn’t go to Oxford in the end. Not because of their comments but because of the typical English rain.
In England there was Christmas stuff in the shops in September, and Christmas decorations everywhere. You couldn’t go into a shop without hearing Christmas music. That was strange, to see Christmas stuff so early in the year. But it was nice that I got a taste of the English Christmas before coming back to the Netherlands for Christmas.’