Elena Meléndez, alumnus Master's Cancer, Stem Cells and Developmental Biology

Alumnus Elena Meléndez in front of the Hijmans van den Bergh building

"This Master’s programme is excellent preparation for a successful research career. The two internships provided me with strong problem-solving skills, which are essential for doing a PhD. They helped me develop the practical skills to carry out complex projects, such as designing experiments, interpreting data and writing reports. The theoretical courses provided me with a deeper insight in stem cell biology. On a personal level, I really enjoyed being abroad and in Utrecht, which is a young and international city. I met great people from all over the world and from many different fields, whose enthusiasm all enriched my experience in Utrecht.

The best part of being a PhD student is the opportunity to learn new concepts every day. I am currently doing a PhD in the group of Dr. Manuel Serrano at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Barcelona. My research is focused on studying the mechanisms of cellular plasticity involved in in vivo reprogramming and, in particular, the relationship between cellular reprogramming and damage. Being in an institute in which people work on different topics constantly brings me into contact with new ideas, which helps me to keep a broad mind about my own research.

My Master’s offered the unique chance to grow professionally in different scientific environments. I had the opportunity to do internships at the University Medical Center Utrecht and the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, where I worked with outstanding researchers. I also combined my studies with different extracurricular activities as part of the Life Sciences programme, during which I was selected for a two-year Utrecht Selective Life Sciences Extracurricular Track  (U/select). This gave me the chance to experience organising seminars with renowned speakers and develop all-new professional and personal skills."

My Anh Truong, alumnus Master's Cancer, Stem Cells and Developmental Biology

Portrait photograph of My Anh Truong

“I chose this programme for its exceptional scientific scope and great career opportunities. The programme is affiliated with the prestigious Hubrecht Institute and UMC Utrecht, which gives you the chance to develop strong connections within an important international network. It offers additional learning experiences, from seminars to retreats, and more hands-on lab experience than comparable programmes. While it’s more demanding than most, it also delivers far more. My internships, including my internship at the University of California, and the networks I developed, paved the way for my current PhD position.

My current role involves conducting experiments in the lab, doing results analyses, expanding my knowledge, teaching, and participating in international research conferences. I find immense joy in the ‘small victories’ sinvolved in my research, like finding solutions to puzzles such as how to develop a working clone or a successfully optimized protocol. The environment I work in is very constructive and collaborative and my colleagues keep me inspired the whole time.

I've always been intrigued by cancer biology, and the microscopic world of cells and molecules. For me, Utrecht’s Master’s in CS&D was a great choice. It allowed me to spend more than 80% of my time in labs, which is where I learn best. I also received the Utrecht Excellence Scholarship, which covered my entire two years of study and living costs in Utrecht.

My Master’s was excellent preparation for my current career. A successful career in science requires strong academic knowledge, extensive lab experience, excellent people skills and a strong network. At Utrecht University, I learned what kind of researcher I want to be and acquired important skills in critical thinking, scientific writing and presenting. The CS&D community also provides a fantastic network and support system that delivers opportunities both during and after the programme. My second internship at the University of California was thanks to several CS&D alumni. A great many partnerships and collaborations bloom from this community."