My secondment in Santiago de Compostela

Luna Krstić (ESR6), University of Santiago de Compostela, September 2021

The month of September 2021 and the start of a new academic year brought me a one-month research stay at the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC). USC is one of the oldest public universities in Spain, founded in the 1495. Each year it welcomes more than 40.000 students which are enrolled in 19 different faculties.

My hosts were Prof. Carmen Alvarez-Lorenzo and Prof. Angel Concheiro, from the Faculty of Pharmacy, where the two professors lead the I+D Fharma group, whose research is focused on pharmaceutical technology and the development of novel drug delivery strategies. During this month, my research was focused on the formulation of natural polyphenolic compounds into therapeutic lenses as a potential treatment for ocular surface diseases like Dry Eye Disease. For me, this experience was more than exciting: except to enrich my knowledge with the precious advice and skills from the lab, I have also made new friends from Galicia and other parts of the world. A win-win situation!

Santiago de Compostela is located in the heart of Galicia, one of Spain northernmost regions. Once in Santiago you should not miss to admire the majestic cathedral, end point for many pilgrims around the world who do the Camino de Santiago, enjoy an excellent pulpo after a walk in the picturesque streets of the old city center.

Despite being a short and intense stay, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to be part of the laboratories and working environment at the USC.  Back in Valladolid is time for the last push before obtaining the PhD degree!

My secondment in Symeres

​​​In July 2020 I moved to Nijmegen, a city located in the east of The Netherlands, near the border with Germany, to start my two and a half month secondment in the company Symeres (previously Mercachem). This company is a contract research organization and it provides different services ranging from drug discovery and library synthesis, to ADME and API development.

During my stay, I had the opportunity to learn new laboratory techniques and participate in several meetings where I was able to see how other scientists are tackling different problems with their chemistry. During my secondment, I was supervised by Dr Peter Molenveld and Klaas Vos. They were always ready to help me, both with my apartment search (which I can say that Nijmegen is probably one of the hardest places in Europe to find an apartment to rent) and also with any problems that I encountered with the chemistry for my project.

In Symeres, I worked on a project where I was required to provide a multigram synthesis of different API impurities to test their toxicity on an animal model, as these compounds are formed in small quantities in an API production process. To get approval from the regulatory agency we needed to check that these impurities have no harmful effects on patients.

The working environment at Symeres was really pleasant and I could see that this company invests a lot in maintaining good connections between its employees.

My secondment in iBET

Nikos Katsinas (ESR4), iBET, March 2020

In January 2020, I started my 3-month industrial secondment in iBET (Institute of Experimental Biology and Technology), which is located in the beautiful suburb of Lisbon, Oeiras, in Portugal. iBet, in collaboration with the New University of Lisbon, is a well-known small-medium sized company working in a broad range of fields. It encompasses multidisciplinary approaches ranging from basic and technological to clinical and translational research, from the development of complex biopharmaceuticals and novel therapies to areas in food and health, including nutraceuticals development and agro-forestry. During my stay, I had the opportunity to work with the Nutraceuticals & Bioactives Process Technology group of the Food & Health Division.

The objective of my secondment was to perform the purification of bioactive compounds from specific extracts derived from agro-industrial residues, with already proven efficacy for Dry Eye Disease. Different methods were tested in order to finally select the most effective one. Also, possible isomers and other structurally similar compounds to the ones of interest were identified through the LC-MS method. For this project, my supervisors were Dr. Naiara Fernández Hernández and Dr. Maria Rosário Bronze. It was a great experience for me to work with both of them, as they provided me with all the necessary support. Together with my academic supervisors, Dr. Soraya Rodriguez Rojo and Dr. Amalia Enriquez de Salamanca, we ensured a very productive research output in a very short stay. Also, everyone from the iBET team, and especially Maha Abdallah (the ESR12), was very supportive during my entire stay in Portugal, making it a memorable experience.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, I had to interrupt my secondment earlier than planned, and I had to work from home the last few weeks. However, I continued working with the iBET team via e-mail, fulfilling our scientific objectives and leading to very interesting and publishable results.

My secondment in Heidelberg

Md Asif Khan Setu (ESR11), Heidelberg, February 2020

My secondment partner is Heidelberg Engineering GmbH, Germany, and I already started my secondment in September 2019 and it will be completed in June 2020. The focus of Heidelberg Engineering includes optimization of the imaging and eye-care IT technologies, to provide ophthalmic diagnostic solutions that empower clinicians to improve patient care.

As part of my research, my secondment tasks are developing and validating new imaging algorithms, software and biomarkers for anterior segment OCT angiography, OCT meibography and confocal microscopy, which will provide better ophthalmic diagnostic solutions for Dry Eye Disease diagnosis. 

At Heidelberg Engineering, I work closely with both the R&D (Software Development and Image Analysis) and Product Management teams, led by Dr. Stefan Schmidt and Dr. Ali Tafreshi respectively. M y  primary supervisor is Dr. Stefan Schmidt, and under his supervision I am working on developing new algorithms and software. It is a great experience for me to work in a company that is the global leader in my research domain. Both of my supervisors and my team mates have been very supportive and I always feel included in the team. Also, my supervisor Dr. Stefan Schmidt, provides me with all the necessary technical and logistical support that I may need. He arranges weekly meetings to discuss my research progress and to help me overcome any difficulties I may encounter. Together with my academic supervisor Prof. Philipp Steven, we are hopeful that this secondment will enable us to have a productive research output.