Recommendation for thinking outside the box

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Hakar Aliyas reports on his internship abroad in Groningen (NL)

Jena. "I was the guinea pig," jokes Hakar Aliyas about his internship in the Netherlands. The budding biology lab technician spent three weeks with a cooperation partner of his training institution, the Leibniz Institute on Aging - Fritz Lipmann Institute (FLI) Jena. More precisely, at the ERIBA Groningen (European Research Institute for the Biology of Ageing) and there in the working group of Dr. Cornelis F. Calkhoven, a former group leader at the FLI. "The internship taught me a lot, both professionally and socially," explains the trainee. "I was able to work independently on breast cancer cells using various methods, learn personal responsibility, be fully integrated into the team and receive excellent supervision, speak English the entire time and have a lot of fun."

However, let`s go in order: Hakar Aliyas is the first trainee as a Biology Laboratory Technician whom the FLI allowed to undertake an internship abroad during his training – owing to his excellent performance and personal interest. He discussed this with his trainer Tom Hünniger (technical assistant in the von Eyß group) last year. Subsequently, in collaboration with the HR department, contact was established with Dr. Calkhoven. He was immediately willing to facilitate the internship in his group, as he still held positive memories of training biology lab technician from his time at the FLI. Funding from the Lift project as part of the EU Erasmus+ program, covering a significant portion of accommodation, travel, and insurance costs, ultimately allowed for a three-week internship instead of the initially planned two weeks.

Hakar Aliyas explains that the difference compared to FLI was not significant at ERIBA. "The methods were a bit different, as well as the structures and occupational  safety." He felt comfortable at ERIBA and in the city, exploring sights such as the Forum Groningen, a kind of cultural center ("You have a great view of the city  there."), and the fish market. Additionally, during his internship, he experienced the Eurosonic music festival and tried and approved the specialty "Groningen mustard soup". He also liked the fact that the people in Groningen were so open, friendly and helpful and  the atmosphere was so international, says Hakar Aliyas. "With its canals, Groningen has the atmosphere of a harbor city," enthuses the Syrian-born Kurd, who has lived in Apolda since 2017.

Back at the FLI, the third-year trainee shared his internship experience in a presentation with other trainees and trainers. His conclusion: "I can definitely recommend such an internship to all trainees." Hakar Aliyas was pleased with the positive feedback on his presentation. He is very grateful for the opportunity to gain this "think outside the box" perspective provided by the FLI. "Overall, I`ve had a very positive experience with the training at the institute," he states. Over the 3.5 years of training, Hakar Aliyas will be well prepared for the profession of Biology Laboratory Technician. At the Institute, he has already acquired practical experience in four research groups. He is now working in Katarzyna Winek's "Microbiome in Stroke and Ageing" research group, where he will continue his training until he graduates in a year's time.