• 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."

  • Pieter Munster, alumnus Master's Cancer, Stem Cells and Developmental Biology

    Pieter Munster, alumnus Master's Cancer and Stem Cell Biology

    “I am a policy advisor on education and research at Leiden University. My work is not specific to the biomedical sciences. I work for the division Academic Affairs which functions as an internal advisory group for the board of the university. In my job I am involved in many different projects, from guiding quality control processes to improving the functioning of the education committees and coordinating the National Student Survey.

    My career has been made possible by the flexible nature of the Master's programmes at Utrecht, as well as the extracurricular activities I did throughout my studies. When my career goals changed, I was able to tailor the programme to reflect this, which is a strength of the programme structure.

    My interest in education and organisation began early in my bachelor days at Utrecht, where I was often involved in committee work for the university. After my Bachelor's, I was most interested in the biology of cancer and Utrecht offered a great Master's in this. It was broader than other Master's, offered fundamental research and has close ties to the Hubrecht institute.

    I really enjoyed the coursework, but during my first internship at Hubrecht I realised that a career in a laboratory was not for me.  For my second internship I opted for the education minor, which involved two months of coursework and a four-month internship helping to organise the course Functional Biology for a new Life Sciences Bachelor's programme. This convinced me that my future was in education and everything involved in organising it.

    Working in universities is something I enjoy greatly and plan to continue. I have a number of future career options in mind. My career has turned out to be atypical of alumni of this Master's, but the university offered the flexibility that made it work."