Eline Giraud, CPS student
First, because of my interest in the world of pharmaceuticals, but also because of the unique teaching methods, the small scale of the study programme and the use of English as the language of instruction.
One week you might work on a small group project, attend lectures from ‘real’ researchers and give a poster presentation. The next week, you might work in the lab and complete assignments under the supervision of a lecturer. Due to this diversity every week brings something new.
The small scale of the CPS study programme creates a real community of enthusiastic and driven students who push one another to a higher level. That makes the contacts with students in my year, but also those above us, fun and exciting. Plus, all of the lecturers know you by name, and they all enjoy helping us when we run into problems.
I also considered to study Modern Dance at the Fontys School of the Arts. But when I heard that I had also been accepted for CPS, I noticed that I was more enthusiastic about that, and with future job prospects in the back of my mind, I decided that I had to go for CPS. I haven’t doubted my choice for a second, although I sometimes secretly wish that I could study dance as well. Luckily, I still have enough time to dance in addition to my studies, and I enjoy every minute of it. For me, it’s the perfect combination!
The Drug Molecule
The most interesting block in the first year to me is the block that I’m in right now. It’s called ‘The Drug Molecule’, and it involves a lot of chemistry, in contrast to the previous block, which dealt more with biology. In this block, we synthesised and analysed a number of different substances in the lab, and we also completed a project in which we came up with a medicine for a disease we chose ourselves. That freedom in how we approach our projects is typical for the CPS programme; there is room for trial and error and for applying your own ideas.
Rob Ruijtenbeek, Vice President Research & Development at PamGene B.V.
CPS is an excellent preparation for my current work. It gives insight into the working of pharmaceuticals. But the project assignments that you complete with other students are of course an excellent preparation as well.
I have the best job that I could imagine. I can lead a commercial multidisciplinary research group, but at the same time I can supervise and motivate researchers at the university. Pharmaceutical research is extremely relevant, and I really enjoy pushing my mind to the limit in my work. It’s very satisfying just coming up with an idea, but when further research, hard work and perseverance pay off by proving that the idea is valid, and you were able to work together with other people to do it, then it is simply fantastic. At PamGene, we have developed a medicine test that allows us to perform a single test on a number of new or existing medicines to determine their effects on inhibiting a large number of proteins that are active in certain forms of cancer.
Developing medicine tests
One day a week, I work at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Utrecht University. Here I have the opportunity to continue to develop the medicine test together with a group that has lots of expertise in peptide chemistry, so that we can eventually test medicines against other proteins and diseases.
There isn’t a fundamental difference between the research conducted at the university or in the industry, but the context is different. The great thing about combining business and academics is that you see how much work is involved in pharmaceutical research, and you can take part in it yourself. I work together with people who conduct clinical studies, in which new therapies are tested in human patients for the first time. I also work with insurance companies and am involved in applying for patents.
Cynthia Siebrand, CPS honours alumna 2017
“Starting the honours programme was a very deliberate choice for me: it seemed to be a great opportunity to spend some time on my broad scientific interest due to the interdisciplinary programme within the Science Honours Academy (SHA), while finding more depth in the pharmaceutical sciences.”
“There are quite some options offered in the interdisciplinary part of the programme. However, the way you fill in your honours programme is completely up to you. Possibilities amongst others are attending symposia organised by students on a broad range of subjects (e.g. the Future Food symposium on how to culture meat in petri dishes) and participating in committees (e.g. the symposium committee). Also going on the yearly study trip is part of the SHA. After joining the trip to Copenhagen I am considering returning for an internship at the University of Copenhagen. Furthermore, I’ve been part of the interdisciplinary project committee, where my committee and I have sparked interest in some students to participate in several projects. I found this to be a very informative experience, as it was my first experience in a committee.”
“During the pharmaceutical part of the programme the options are even more endless: you are expected to come up with a project yourself (within the pharmaceutical spectrum), make a group with other CPS/Pharmacy students and find a supervisor. This is quite a challenge, but further on in your scientific career you will have to write your own project proposal as well. I worked on two projects. For the first one a small group of students and I researched literature on flavonoids to obtain a better insight, with some interesting conclusions. Furthermore, I worked on a website with useful information for current CPS student, with topics like student experiences abroad and elective courses.”
“Through the CPS honours programme I was able to broaden as well as deepen my knowledge and interests. I found this both a huge plus! Furthermore, I have been able to acquire multiple soft skills for example my work in committees and I was able to work together with students from many different fields you wouldn’t normally work with. Additionally the honours programme stands out on your CV and helped me get into my current Master’s programme Drug Innovation. It has been hard work at times, but combining CPS with the honours programme is very doable. I found it a very pleasant experience and would certainly recommend it to all new CPS students!”
Koen Voskuil, CPS student
I chose the CPS Bachelor program for its small scale classes, English taught language and international community. Previously I had studied Chemistry in York, England but I didn’t like it since it was only large scale lectures with over 300 students. It didn’t have the intimate feeling like you get with CPS due to the small class sizes and more enhanced and personal relationship with your teacher. The selection procedure also supported my choice since all the CPS students are highly motivated and interested in the same topics. This creates a fertile breeding ground for fun and advanced discussions and faster learning pace.
I think it is very important to be taught your bachelor in English especially if you are planning on going into research since all the research is done in English. Furthermore, since the course is in English it attracts many international students. In our year we have a third of the students coming from overseas. The international students add an interesting dynamic to the class since a broader range of ideas and opinions are introduced in the class.
The course structure was very appealing to me since it covered many aspects of the pharmaceutical pipeline starting with epidemiology and ending with the atomic scale of molecule structures. Moreover, the course offers lots of freedom to choose electives throughout the whole university. For example, with a big interest in medicinal chemistry I was able to take multiple courses on chemistry and medicinal chemistry during my undergraduate years, including courses that I did during my exchange period at the National University of Singapore.
My favorite course so far was Analytical Methods which is given in the second year. The students are presented with a series of crime cases with blood and urine samples provided and you had to use analytical methods to solve the crime cases. The course was so enjoyable since we had all kinds of machines and other resources at our disposal. The course was both very frustrating since you had to learn how everything worked, learn by doing; yet very rewarding since we got a lot of hands on experience that many other students would not have the opportunity to try.
After I graduate I plan on completing the Drug Innovation master because it ties in very well with the CPS program. I will probably also continue on in the medicinal chemistry field during my master. I would like to start a startup company with some friends from CPS and make a revolutionary drug!
Jolet Mimpen, CPS student
Since I had always been fascinated with drugs and how a small pill can have such an impact on your health, many people advised me to study Pharmacy. However, I was more interested in the science behind drugs in contrast to the more patient-oriented approach of Pharmacy. When I found out about CPS, everything fell into place; it is not only a research-oriented study focused on drug development, but also has many other aspects that I was really drawn to: you study a lot by doing projects, it is an international group of people, a relatively small group of students, the study is challenging, meaning that you are always stimulated to perform at the best of your ability, and the study requires creativity, discipline and independence. To top it all off, you are able to get a lot of lab experience because you get the opportunity to do many things yourself, instead of just watching a tutorial. All these aspects allow you to develop many skills that you can use in the rest of your career.
Assisting in on-going research
One of my favourite courses was the elective course ‘Advanced Immunopharmacology’ in the third year of CPS. The reason that I liked this course is that in the first five weeks we gained a lot of knowledge by doing many different theoretical assignments, and after these five weeks we had the opportunity to apply all of this new knowledge in an on-going research project by helping to analyse all the samples of experiments. As students, we got a lot of responsibility and the chance to contribute to the research by bringing in new ideas for the things we could look at in the research and the way in which the obtained samples and data could be analysed.
Interaction with teachers
What is special about CPS is that because of the small groups, you are able to interact a lot with your teachers! We learn mostly by ‘Inquiry-based learning’, which means that for an assignment we can choose the topic that we find most interesting or important to work on. We have only lectures to get us started and to learn us the basics. You will learn most of the details by doing a project, practicals and through self-study. Since much of the work is done by yourself, you will have regular sessions with the teachers to present or discuss your work, which are really helpful. The teachers often say that they learn as much from the students as we learn from them: they really value your ideas, input, creativity, and effort.
CPS is an Honours Programme, which gives you an extra challenge and the opportunity to get the best out of yourself. Because all the students are selected, you are able to work with motivated and hard-working students to tackle the assignments. CPS is set up in a way that you are well supported because you work in small groups, the way of teaching is very interactive, and you are in close contact with your teachers. After finishing an assignment, it is always immensely rewarding to see that you achieved things you didn’t think you were capable of.
Master’s at University of Oxford
I was looking for a new challenge after graduating from CPS. Because CPS is so internationally orientated and you are always stimulated to aim high, I applied to some prestigious universities abroad. Fortunately, I was accepted for the Master ‘Pharmacology’ at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom. This experience will give me the opportunity to further expand my knowledge and expertise and learn with a different approach, from different teachers, in a different country. CPS gave me an amazing background in the pharmaceutical sciences and because of this, I am now able to take up this new challenge in order to become an even better researcher!
Update: Jolet has accepted a PhD position that was offered by the supervisor from her Master’s research project.
Susanne Vijverberg, academic researcher and teacher
The CPS prepares you well for the many facets of pharmaceutical research. You learn to think critically about your research question, your approach and your results. That is an essential element of my research. But at the same time, you learn how important it is to work together with other people.
My work is very diverse, because I combine research with teaching. For example, at the moment I am teaching second-year students, I am coordinator of a course, I supervise two interns and I also conduct my own research into ‘personalised medicine’ for children with asthma.
I am currently hard at work bringing researchers in the field of personalised medicine for children with asthma together into a consortium, so that we can cooperate better. It is great to see that so many people, from Slovenia to the United States, are so enthusiastic about participating, and that the consortium is growing so rapidly! That gives us plenty of new opportunities for research in the field, and hopefully it will result in better treatment for children suffering from serious forms of asthma.
Combining teaching and research
I really enjoy coaching students, but I also love the depth of my own research. In addition to my other duties, I collaborate with many people from other disciplines, such as respiratory doctors, pharmacists, research nurses, statisticians, analysts and clinical researchers. It is a big challenge building bridges between these varied disciplines.