Hello. My name is Daniel and I come from a place near Aschaffenburg, a town in Germany. Since my youth, I have always been fascinated by science and technology, which is why, after graduating from high school, I decided to study Physics at TU Darmstadt. While studying for my Master’s degree at Heidelberg University, the Otto Bayer Scholarship provided me with a unique opportunity to spend some time carrying out research in Boston, USA. Read it for yourselves!
It was in my sixth semester, while preparing a dissertation for my Bachelor’s degree, that I first came into contact with the life sciences. The work I was doing involved researching a radiation-therapy system for the treatment of cancer. In addition to the complex technology and the interdisciplinary nature of my research, the fact that the work I was doing generated added value for society was particularly appealing to me.
In order to gain a firmer foothold in that field, I decided to change universities and to study for my Master’s degree at Heidelberg University, where I specialized in Medical Physics. Heidelberg University provides teaching in the physical principles of radiation therapy, as well as in the workings of a number of imaging processes used in radiology.
From Heidelberg to Boston…
As I had unfortunately not spent any time abroad while studying for my Bachelor’s degree, I definitely wanted to combine the one-year research phase leading up to my Master’s degree dissertation with a period abroad. I opted to research a topic relating to Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), so that I could spend six month working at the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) in Heidelberg and six months at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
…thanks to the Otto Bayer Scholarship!
With this in mind, I also applied for the Otto Bayer Scholarship from the Bayer Science and Education Foundation, as the cost of living in Boston is considerably higher than it is in Germany. The Scholarship program provides financial support to enable successful applicants to complete a dissertation or an internship abroad and therefore represents a possible source of finance for students from a number of different life sciences and scientific disciplines. Although Physics was not explicitly listed, a few weeks after submitting my application, I was invited to an interview at the Group headquarters in Leverkusen, where I had to give a presentation of my research topic before a panel of judges. Soon afterwards, I received a confirmation of acceptance and thanks to the generous support from the Bayer Science and Education Foundation, nothing now stood in the way of my research visit.
Off I go!
After an induction phase lasting several months in Heidelberg, I flew to Boston in January 2016. There, I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to take part in a working group consisting of highly respected scientists from Harvard and from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who provided me with highly intensive and personal supervision. I also received additional support from Bayer in the form of a mentor. This meant that, only a few months after arriving, I was in a position to present my initial results. In specific terms, I carried out research into an accelerated imaging method that would enable the recording time of an MRI scan to be considerably reduced. In terms of clinical practice, this is highly relevant, as compared with other established imaging processes, magnetic resonance imaging is a very slow form of technology and examinations can take up to one hour. The outcomes of our research make it possible to achieve a substantial reduction in the amount of time taken to carry out a frequently-used imaging sequence while achieving imaging of almost the same quality. At the present time, this method is undergoing clinical evaluation and will hopefully start to benefit large numbers of patients in the near future.
A lot of work, but a lot of fun, too!
Despite the intense nature of the work – in the United States, scientists rarely work fewer than 40 hours a week – there was a lot of fun to be had, too. In the spring, I went sailing with friends in Boston Bay, at Cape Cod, a peninsula in the Atlantic. I also went cycling for several days and watched the Super Bowl divisional playoffs together with the fervent Patriots fans in a sports bar. The absolute highlight of my stay, however, was taking part, for one week, in the conference of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine in Singapore, together with my colleagues.
My tip for you all
With the right amount of commitment and ambition, it is possible to combine your studies with a stay abroad, and there are a great many opportunities and valuable experiences out there! So get out there and see for yourself!
My heartfelt thanks go to…
the Bayer Science and Education Foundation for funding and supporting my project.
I am extremely happy that support is also provided to research that lies outside of Bayer’s core business, and that I have had the opportunity to contribute to delivering Science For A Better Life.
This post is also available in: German