Lina: Julia, you work at the Charité in Berlin at the Institute of Clinical Physiology and just handed in your dissertation. How did you get the idea of studying nutritional sciences/ ecotrophology?
Julia: The first time I was 15 years when I had a professional orientation test about the employment agency and the test suggested to me to study ecotrophology. After I had analysed the study modules/lectures, I was particularly impressed with the variety and I found nutrition and the biological as well as chemical processes behind it very interesting.
Where did you study?
I’ve studied BSc ecotrophology at the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Bernburg, Sachsen-Anhalt and MSc Nutritional and Food Science at the Kiel University, Schleswig Holstein.
Did you like the studies? Would you study it again?
I really liked the variety, but I realized in my study in Bernburg (BSc) that I missed the profundity in modules like food science or biochemical nutrition. That is why I wanted to change to nutrition science. I tried to apply for nutrition science at the Potsdam University, but I had to change the university in summer semester and this was only possible for the Kiel University. I started there ecotrophology with main focus Nutritional and Food Science. I thought I could change after one semester to Potsdam. However, there I had the opportunity for a semester abroad in Krakow, and to avoid more time use I finished in Kiel. I think I would study the same, in the same order. It was a good study subject to get an overview, it is interdisciplinary, especially in Bernburg. I mean I had food technology, quality management, economics, microbiology, nutrition physiology, a lot of practical subjects (I had to cook, to analyze in laboratory, to train my senses, to create a fictional food company). And in Kiel I could go more into details like in nutrigenomics and food toxicology, had to learn more on my own.
Where do you work now and how does a typical working day looks like for you?
I work at the Charité Berlin in the Institute of Clinical Physiology (Department Gastroenterology). I start between 8 and 9 in the morning. First, I activate all devices which I need in the morning, like the laminar flow cabinet for cell culture. Then I check my work mails and I plan the day in a work scheme with the time periods. It is often a change between experiments and work at the desk where I read a paper, write or calculate in excel or create a figure for a publication. At the end of the day all performed experiments are documented in the logbook (like a Laboratory book).
When I started with my doctoral thesis I did more experiments and in the last year I sat more at a desk or even was the whole day in the library.
You just handed in your dissertation. When did you know, you want to do doctoral studies?
I always liked to plan experiments, to evaluate data and create a presentation or a poster, so, mainly I liked to research.
It was always in my mind “how cool would it be?”, but after my one year master thesis I was not so sure about it. There is always a moment where you hate the cells and you have to deal with a lot of frustrating moments. That is why I also sent some applications to different companies, but few months after my studies in Kiel I got a scholarship and the opportunity to write my dissertation at Charité Berlin. And I took this chance, I thought if I did not my PhD, then I will regret it.
How do you see your future?
In addition to the doctoral thesis, I took care of clinical trials (in hematology and oncology of Charité Berlin) and I constantly had to work out something new. I would like to stay in the research area, but I want to go back to my interdisciplinary skills. I would like to coordinate and manage more than to use the pipette or the microscope. To have a varied and flexible working day is important to me as well. That is why I think I would like to work in projects which have a start and stop date, where you have to manage a lot and always learn new things.
What do you recommend other students or graduates to become successful in this field? What kind of extra work did you do next to your studies?
Besides studies you could work as a study assistant in a hospital like me, or you could write your master thesis in this field (in hospital, institute like DifE or even pharmaceutical industry)
Also, I was part of the mentoring plus programme at Potsdam graduate school and I also did some application training with the help of the career service of Potsdam university.
Furthermore, I did a 1 year course at Charité, which educates to become a clinical trail manager.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles in our field?
I think in the research field there is lot of competition to other disciplines such as biochemistry, chemistry, food chemistry, biotechnology and medicine. Especially if you do not want to work in a pure nutrition research group, in my institute I was the only nutrionist. After my thesis I am now looking for a job, afterwards I can tell you more about obstacles.
Thank you very much for the interview!