Student - 13 juni 2013

'You have to like the mountains or you'd go nuts'

Who? Marloes van Splunter, Master's student in Cell Biology
What? Was attached to Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research (SIAF) for a seven-month research internship
Where? Davos, Switserland

'The research internship I did was one of the best you can get in immunology. Davos has money, facilities and much specific know-how. It is 1500 metres above sea level and is therefore free from house dust mites. That makes it a Valhalla for people with allergies and asthma. It also has a German and Dutch asthma centre. My focus was on certain cells in the blood that react specifically to bee poison. I examined the cells of someone who was allergic to bee poison and had received immunotherapy. I compared these cells with cells from a beekeeper who had built up a natural immunity. As there are very few Master's students in Davos, I was being treated like a PhD student. High standards were imposed, but I also learnt a lot because of that.
I combined doing research with an outdoor life. Everyone is given two hours' break, during which most would go outdoors to do cross-country or downhill skiing or hiking. There, winter lasts for eight to nine months. And so I learned how to ski but after a while, I had had more than enough. You have to like the mountains or you'd go nuts. Davos is located in a really remote area. It took some getting used to: it not being a student town but a tourist town. Tourism gets all the attention. That makes it difficult to come into contact with the local population. I tried to make contact by playing volleyball, but I couldn't understand Swiss German. There were just two people on the entire court who knew English. I had more contact with my colleagues, though; they became real friends. I went to Heidiland with some of my colleagues. Nice to see where the legendary Heidi and Peter come from and where the film was shot.'

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