Student Research: Personal sacrifices, lots of satisfaction!

Miguel Olias Ibor, currently a 5th year student, has told us about his involvement in research whilst studying at the University of Szeged.

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I have always been very curious about research as an activity and honestly I thought it was very hard to achieve any goals or even to be get involved. Then in the beginning of the 4th year, I got the opportunity to start doing research at the Department of Biochemistry as a TDK student, where I acquired basic techniques and methodologies in cell culturing. It was really exciting to see how research work was going there; since the department was not the same as the place we had been learning Biochemistry during the 2nd year. I got a deeper insight and experience in methodologies such as isolation of neonatal cardiomyocytes, performing simulated ischemia and reperfusion or calcein viability assay on primary cultures. All these experiences turned out to be very useful one semester later, when I could choose a TDK topic.

11103516_10204608355263730_988482709_o-1024x759Thus, I started to investigate the effects of the phosphatidyilcholine derivative L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine (GPC), a very interesting compound, who has already had promising literature. This study was in collaboration with the Institute of Surgical Research (SRI) and the Department of Biochemistry, making this project even more attractive for me by holding out hopes of learning more methods. In the first period at the SRI, we started to perform direct mitochondrial function analysis using high-resolution respirometry (Oroboros O2K), while the oxygen consumption of fresh liver homogenates was measured with and without GPC treatment. Afterwards, we stepped forward to the cell culture laboratory at the other department, where neonatal cardiomyocytes were exposed to GPC treatment under normoxic or hypoxic conditions, while the cell viability and proliferation were detected.

After a year of research we have moved forward, and we tried to give a more detailed explanation on the possible background of the observations, by focusing on the oxido-reductive parameters. For that purpose, the cells were treated with GPC in a dose dependent manner under normoxic and hypoxic conditions and different stains (DHE and H2DCF-DA) were carried out for detecting the ROS and superoxide formation.

In line with this study, I also took another topic at the Department of Gynecology. That was about insulin resistance and pregnancy outcome, but this time it was a clinical study rather than basic research. I found it appealing how the clinical research was performed and I gained a better view about both sides: the pre-clinical and clinical research. I could discover both approaches. The latter study required data collection from previous records on selected pregnancies and then data analyses. Obviously, research on the literature was also needed.

Hereupon, this overall work allowed me to go to several conferences to present my research outcomes; the first one was the so-called TDK (Tudományos Diákköri Konferencia) in 2014, which was a local conference at the University of Szeged, where I achieved a nice performance. Thereafter, I could go to several international conferences held in different countries such as Poland, Germany, Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia. In Zagreb (ZIMS 2014), I was awarded with the 1st prize for the Best Oral Presentation, which meant the acknowledgement of all the previous hard work. Fortunately it was the only success. This year at the TDK (2015), I also participated and was awarded by the 1st prize in the session of Pharmacology. This place opened new opportunities, because it allowed the winners to be attended at the national turn, OTDK (Országos Tudományos Diákköri Konferencia). This conference takes place in every 2 years where all the students who won a prize at the local TDK can participate. This year it is going to be held in Budapest.

Moreover, we are supported to attend at another conference in Timisora, Romania, in April, where we have to present a poster about our research. Going to the conferences motivates you even more to do research, because you can meet your fellow colleagues who are studying and researching at the same time. Everybody can get involved, and especially, enthusiastic students are more than welcome in different departments.

Researching requires some personal sacrifices and it is extremely time consuming, but also grants a lot of satisfaction. Even though it is not very popular between international students, it is a common practice among Hungarians students. I would like to encourage any student, especially international students, to get involved in this experience, which you can also use for your thesis work. If you don’t know how to get involved just contact any of us, and we can help you. And who knows, maybe the PhD will be the next step!

Interview by: Benedek Bozoky and Priya Mehra