Interviewee: Archana, MS Bioengineering at Technical University of Dresden, Germany.
Interviewer: Sameeha, 4th-year Biomedical Engineering.
1. For a career path moving from Biotechnology towards Bioengineering, research interest is indispensable. Can you elaborate on your interest in pursuing research?
Archana: I am a science enthusiast. My motivation to pursue research lies in my curiosity to learn something new every
2. Did you take a German language test in preparation for your study there? Was there a time you faced an issue due to the language barrier?
Archana: No. I did not take a German language test. I had two months free after my admission, and I used them to learn the basics of German just in case, even though the course is in English.
3. Was this University your only choice? What were the difficulties you faced stepping into Dresden?
Archana: The most important criteria for me were the courses, not the colleges. After checking multiple courses from numerous universities, I selected Bioengineering over my other choices, Molecular Bioengineering and Biophysics. So, the struggle was predominantly about finding the right mix rather than a particular university. Dresden appealed to me since it offered the courses I was most interested in; moreover, the labs here are just
what I was looking for, and that is how I ended up in Dresden.
4. How is the teaching method and structure there? How frequently do you have classes? Is the timetable adaptable?
Archana: Yes. The timetable is very flexible. It is not a rigid Monday-Friday, 9-5 situation. The course offers plenty of time to explore the various labs. The first two semesters included a lot of coursework. We usually had to sit through one or two hours of tutorials where we got a couple of problems to solve.
5. Is there a particular thesis you are working on? Could you give us a short overview?
Archana: I am working on the biophysics of cancer proteins. I am curious about the intersection of biology and physics and the fields between engineering and biology. These days, core physicists and biologists collaborate to increase our understanding of scientific questions.
6. What is your take on the social life there?
Archana: I found quite a few people to who I could relate and was also surprised to meet a lot of Indians here. However, since the pandemic turned everything upside-down, we missed out on outdoor activities. We went hiking only once. But we still had fun despite being quarantined together.
7. Are you studying on a grant, or is it self-supported? Also, how did you find accommodation?
Archana: Since this is a public university, there is no tuition fee. To meet our expenses and do research, we could work in a lab here, which helped me support myself. The accommodation is in the student dormitories. Dresden has a student organization that allocates housing facilities close to the campus. This campus spreads throughout the city. So, you can get accommodation based on the location of your department.
8. What do you like most about being involved in research there? What does a typical week look like for you?
Archana: My weekdays are now spent in the lab, performing experiments. However, at the moment, weekends are not particularly eventful due to the pandemic restrictions and lockdown. Otherwise, there is a huge student community here, and all our friends would have gathered every weekend.
9. Could you tell us about the lab infrastructure, the environment, the undertakings and the facilities at your university?
Archana: The labs are well equipped. They have everything we want. Even if you do not have the equipment you need, you can always collaborate with other labs which have the equipment you need. Everyone here is approachable and enthusiastic.
10. What are your plans after this course?
Archana: I want to do a PhD and eventually a Postdoc. I want to do academic research and be an independent woman in Academia.
11. How did this pandemic assist/influence your studies at Dresden?
Archana: It forced us into one semester of online teaching, so we had to spend a lot of time in front of the computer. Classes that would have otherwise commenced in auditoriums were held online. Although it was good, it cannot compare to the live interactions with classmates and professors; this also resulted in restrictions in the lab.
12. What are the skills you would recommend that your juniors develop to get offers from top colleges for postgraduate studies and perform well there?
Archana: In my experience during my undergraduate degree, our college provides us with multitudes of options that will help us understand our strengths and areas that need improvement. I would advise my juniors to use all the opportunities that come their way - to get to know about themselves, their interests and their aspirations. Internships help determine your area of interest. If you want to pursue a Masters, having some projects or a thesis under your belt will certainly help in admissions. Explore all that the campus has to offer. There's no pressure here; it all depends on your interest. So put your best foot forward and experience new things.
The Guindy Times thanks Archana for sharing her experience with us and wishes the best for her future endeavours.