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Aside from our traditional master’s and postgraduate students, ITM annually welcomes 88 trainees and 9 master’s students from other universities to carry out research at ITM as part of their thesis. In 2014, one such student was Elyssa Cannaerts, master’s student in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Antwerp.

What was your research project about?

“During an internship in Tanzania, I learned a lot about other cultures and the challenges they face when confronted with various illnesses. These unusual and often neglected diseases triggered my interest and I decided to build my research project around animal sleeping sickness.

I started looking into the animal immune responses in experimental mouse infections with Trypanosoma parasites. It resulted in this unique opportunity to work with tsetse flies and fluorescent parasites, which in Flanders can only be done at ITM. My research was part of a pilot study, which is still ongoing. The fact that my thesis has contributed to the greater good, gives me a lot of satisfaction,” explained Elyssa.

How did you get into ITM?

“All students get an extensive list of labs they can apply to and if accepted can carry out their thesis research there. My choice automatically fell on ITM, as my thesis dealt with African trypanosomiasis. Prof. Jan Van Den Abbeele invited all candidates for a guided tour and a briefing on the way ITM operates, the ongoing research projects, etc. This gave us a good idea of what to expect. If, after this briefing, we were still interested, we had to contact Prof. Van Den Abbeele again to further discuss our intentions.”

The fact that my thesis has contributed to the greater good, gives me a lot of satisfaction

“What I will certainly remember is the professional atmosphere and friendly staff in our unit. I was very surprised that I could address Prof. Van Den Abbeele as Jakke. But I got used to that very quickly,” chuckled Elyssa.

What have you learned?

“During my research at ITM, I learned two valuable things that will definitely be useful for my future career: work independently and think critically. I was encouraged to carry out my research autonomously, but I was supervised by an expert at the same time. It gave me a sense of freedom. Additionally my supervisor, Guy Caljon, told me to approach my research critically, and ask questions such as: “Why do you carry out your research in this way?”, “Is that the best method?”, etc. I was also advised not to be satisfied too easily and thus aim for the best results.

Working on my thesis at ITM has most definitely boosted my love for research. It is one of the decisive factors for starting my PhD this year,” Elyssa concluded.

Elyssa Cannaerts at work in the lab.

Elyssa Cannaerts at work in the lab.