Student - 16 januari 2014

‘Of course I learned to shoot and ride a horse’

Who? Leroy Versteeg, MSc Biology graduate
What? Internship at Baylor College of Medicine, part of the Texas Medical Centre
Where? Houston, Texas

‘The Texas Medical Centre, where I did my internship, is the largest of its kind in the world – more than seven million patients are treated there every year. It is made up of 21 hospitals and 8 universities which purchase the latest treatments and equipment between them. Perfect for me, because I was keen to work in a lab with state-of-the-art technology. The department I worked in develops vaccinations for tropical diseases such as West Nile fever and hookworm.
Something I wasn’t used to in Wageningen is the amount of time I spend here on reporting and in meetings. That is because research projects here are funded through grants from organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, or through investments by companies, and they of course want to know how their money is spent. At a university you sometimes simply want to know how something works, but here you constantly have to ask yourself whether what you are doing will contribute anything to the end product, the vaccine.
In my free time I went out and about with my housemates. Of course, as you would expect in Texas, I learned country dancing and to shoot and ride a horse. We ate out a lot too. Houston is full of cheap restaurants – you could get a full meal for six euros. You notice than people there are fatter than in Holland, on average, so I was extra careful about what I ate. On a weekend camping trip we went to a place near the Mexican border. It was six hours’ drive – as far as the south of France from Holland. There are lots of rivers in that area, and tubing is all the rage. That involves taking a tractor inner tube, often with a net across the middle. You sit in it, take a beer along – sometimes there is a whole cool box on the tyre – and float down the river for hours. There are buses waiting along the river bank to take you back to the campsite. It was really strange to be at a campsite with a sign warning you that you might see people walking around at night, and not to approach them. They are illegal Mexican immigrants, who might think you are part of a patrol.’