Carolina Pandeirada (23) is sitting in the gentle autumn sun trying to pluck up courage. Today is the day she’ll meet her PhD supervisor. Carolina, who is Portuguese, has just finished her MSc degree in food chemistry and has moved to Wageningen to study the object of her fascination: carbohydrates.
Photo Veerle de Goederen
‘Carbohydrates are truly very fascinating,’ she exclaims with a twinkle in her eye. For her Master’s thesis in Portugal, she worked with many different food components: fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. ‘Fats are a bit boring – they are all much the same. And proteins fall apart at the slightest provocation, like even a small change in acidity. I think carbohydrates are just right. They can undergo complex molecular changes, for example during food processing. I’m curious to investigate how these changes affect nutritional value.’
Despite arriving in Holland only yesterday, the campus already makes Carolina feel at home. ‘It so green here, and so clean. Almost like a fairy tale. When you walk around, you just see that this place breathes science.’ Carolina hopes life as a researcher will bring continuous renewal to her life. ‘I am very young at heart. I love to experiment with molecules, to create new substances. The laboratory is my playground.’
Carolina shyly reveals the brand-new tattoo on her left arm: a globe in red and blue, a lucky clover, and a bird that takes off towards the horizon. Her initials are inscribed next to the bird’s flying path. ‘This tattoo reflects who I am. Last year was difficult for me – my grandmother passed away and my sister has a long-term illness. But even though family means the world to me, life carries on, and I want to live it. This tattoo reminds me to follow my dreams. I am as free as a bird.’