Lab exchanges: PhD student Martin Holub shares his experience

Thanks to the EMBO Scientific Exchange Grant, Martin Holub, a PhD student from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, is currently at the University of Manchester in the UK for three months. He tells us about his lab exchange experience and shares his advice for those thinking of taking the plunge.

Manchester. Photo: Martin Holub

Whether it’s to further our understanding of how life works, or to develop more sustainable technologies, many researchers around the world are taking up the challenge of building cells from scratch. This field of research, known as synthetic cell research or bottom-up synthetic biology, requires a wide range of expertise from biologists, chemists, physicists, engineers, mathematicians, and even philosophers, who are looking at ethical issues and societal implications.

Close collaborations and the transfer of expertise are essential to meeting the challenge, and researchers can count on a number of opportunities to facilitate them: conferences such as SynCell2024 in Toulouse (France), summer schools, but also grants.

An exchange proposal to gain experience in yeast genome research

Martin Holub

Martin Holub, a PhD student in Cees Dekker’s group (Delft University of Technology, Netherlands) and involved in the Dutch BaSyC program, is currently visiting the Cai Lab (University of Manchester, UK) for three months thanks to the EMBO Scientific Exchange Grant.

“In my PhD, I’m working on a project that we call ‘Genome in a Box’, where we develop a microfluidics-based assay for the in-vitro reconstitution and study of genome organization. I am interested in furthering our understanding of how DNA is organized in a cell and how this impacts the control of gene and protein expression.

“I heard about the EMBO fellowship from colleagues in the department. I wanted to work with a different set of organisms compared to those I have worked with in the past, and gain chromosome-engineering experience. Patrick Cai’s lab is one of the leading labs in yeast synthetic genomics, so it was quite a natural choice. Following discussions with him and his team, I was  able to develop a proposal that bridges the expertise of both labs.”

Martin’s application was accepted and he left for the UK at the beginning of June for a three-month stay.

“The whole experience is very enriching. You grow a lot as a scientist because you’re working on your own independent project. It is more of a postdoc experience.”

Interested in lab exchange programs? Talk to your Principal Investigator first

Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB)

Martin advises talking to your PI first about the possibilities of visiting other laboratories, early on in your PhD. There are various options, including the EMBO grants and fellowships, to facilitate exchanges.

Looking back on his own experience, Martin believes that lab visits offer several benefits: “It’s an opportunity to learn from researchers who have different expertise, and it gives you the chance to explore new areas of research. If you’re tempted by a postdoc in a less familiar field, but don’t want to dive in headfirst, I think it’s a great way to explore it.”

“Research labs do not necessarily operate in the same way. So it’s good to have different perspectives on how labs are organized and can operate, especially if you want to set up your own research group later on”, he concluded.

Thank you Martin for sharing your experience! You can follow his stay in Manchester and his life in the lab on his Instagram.

Would you like to share your own experience of research collaboration or expertise sharing? Don’t hesitate to contact us!

For more information about the EMBO grants

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