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Sana Khan Khilji, PhD student
Please shortly describe your current profession. What does your typical day at work look like?
I am pursuing a PhD at MPIKG in the Glycan-targeted Therapeutics group. My typical day at work starts with planning the day, or, depending on some experiments, even the week. I like to jot down what needs to be done and cross it off the list once I have finished the task. This helps keep my mind on the objective and gives me a sense of accomplishment after every little task is finished. The tasks vary from reading papers and researching online to practical work and writing my lab journal.
What was your motivation for studying Biochemistry?
For me, Biochemistry is as complex as it is simple. By which I mean, while there is always something new and possibly complicated being discovered or researched in the subject, the understanding of it all usually comes down to basics. Breaking down a complex idea to something easily understandable has always excited me. Also, it is the study of life being explained at the micro-level of chemical processes. This does not only make it relatable but also fascinating.
When and how did you choose your current profession? Did you realize your plans from the time of your studies?
My first real taste of working full days in a lab came from the work for my Bachelor’s thesis. For most people a Bachelor’s thesis starts with them being dependent on their supervisor and then with time starting to learn to work more and more independently. That was the case for me too. While I had always enjoyed lab work in the different courses the Bachelor’s program offers, as soon as I started feeling confident enough to research, plan and work on my own, I realized this was something I wanted to continue doing. Even then I used the two years of the Master’s program to gain more experience in the field and hear experiences of different PhD students. This helped me make a decision to go for a PhD position and I had applied to my current position midway through my Master’s thesis.
What in your opinion is the most important thing for your work that you learned during your studies? What do you still profit from?
Continuing on with what I mentioned earlier, I believe the most important thing that I learned during my Master’s studies was how to plan my work better and carry it out independently. The Biochemistry Master’s program offered by FUB allows one to explore three different aspects of research: Structural Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Molecular Biomedicine. Within these broader research areas, I had the free reign to apply to labs of my choice, an opportunity I fully took advantage of. This allowed me to not only familiarize myself with different experimental methods, lab environments and research areas, but also gave me more confidence to work independently and think of different aspects while planning my work. It also helped me decide on the direction in which I wanted to go with my research.
Which additional qualifications should one gain as a student that are crucial or useful for your current profession?
Fluent spoken and written English is very important for daily work in a multicultural environment such as offered by my research institute. Other than that, a lot of work requires computer skills such as being proficient at Microsoft Office. Some knowledge of Biostatistics is often beneficial too.
Is there anything from the Master’s program that evokes especially strong memories?
I wouldn’t say particularly strong memories, but the Friday afternoon lectures of Advanced Biochemistry Part 1 were always very interesting to attend and I thoroughly enjoyed them.
What advice would you give the Master students who would like to pursue a similar career?
Not only are you offered various methods’ modules and seminars on different topics by the university, you’re given the opportunity to work with different labs of your choice throughout your research-oriented Master’s program. These two years of your life provide you with insights into many aspects of research and hopefully will help you plan your future. Do take the opportunity to explore and develop/establish yourself professionally, but don’t forget to have fun doing it!