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In the lab: Students search for cancer cure

CM 16/08/2021 2

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Luisa Rodrigues, born in Portugal, has dreams of becoming an academic researcher one day.

TAU Student Stories: Luisa Rodrigues

But, how did that passion land her in the Jewish State?While working on her bachelor’s degree in Sweden, Rodrigues discovered the Tel Aviv University International Summer Research Program in the Sciences. She immediately felt it could be a good match and decided to take the plunge to attend school in the Middle East to take her passion for lab work forward.”I found the program online, and I felt like I really wanted to do academic research in the future and this seemed like a good opportunity so I just took it,” Rodrigues said.Rodrigues explained that within the summer research program, students have the opportunity to apply to specific labs throughout that university that fall within their interest. She notes that the curriculum structure gives more “realistic insight” into what it actually is to do laboratory research.At the university, Rodrigues shadowed Dr. Maayan Gal, who is a faculty member in the Department of Oral Biology, and his colleague Hen Alali. Together, they are working with the students toward the discovery of new protein modulators as the basis for new therapeutics.”It’s fascinating, because it is very much protein modeling, and biology, chemistry and physics are my thing. I’m loving it, honestly, I’m having such a good time,” Rodrigues added.While the main focal point for Rodrigues’ stay in Israel surrounds academics, she notes that the social aspect that comes with the territory of being an international student in Israel is almost second to none.”For someone who came from Sweden … everything is new,” Rodrigues said. “I’ve never been in Israel before, so it’s very nice to meet new people and be in contact with a different culture.”Me trying to learn Hebrew has also been very funny for everyone in the lab,” she added. “It’s a very nice experience, and the academic part is amazingly done. [TAUi] made it an amazing experience for us.”Rodrigues noted that she is enamored with the program due to the fact that it allows her the opportunity to both work “with the lab” and “in the lab,” saying it’s not just what is seen in the lectures or covered in discussions, but that the program gives the students real-life applicable knowledge that they’ll be able to use in their careers.The program itself is around two-and-a-half months long, from June through mid-August. The students stay at the dormitories located on the TAU campus, and Rodrigues notes that TAUi made the experience very accessible, straightforward and organized, notifying the students of what they need to be successful, what they will do in the program, how to navigate everyday Israeli life on campus and so forth.She said that TAUi “made it as easy as could be” and the students feel “very guided and supported,” and there is “someone there that [the students] can call 24/7 if” an issue arises.Rodrigues told The Jerusalem Post that she loved her time in Israel and hopes to come back as soon as possible.”I am planning to come back in January to do the end of my bachelor’s project, my bachelor’s thesis, with Dr. Maayan Gal,” she said. “So, I’m hoping – fingers crossed – that coronavirus doesn’t destroy my plans.“I love my lab, I love the research and I’m having such a good time. I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to go back to Portugal, I really don’t.”Rodrigues added that she would recommend the program to other students looking toward a career in academic research as it was a very “hands on” experience.”You are given your responsibilities, you don’t just learn but you learn hands on, and you learn in a professional environment,” she said. “If people take any type of science [major] that [incorporates] practical work, they would know that in the university – especially for a bachelor’s of course – you are not going to have access to the best [technology] and your results are not expected to be 100% accurate. “But in this environment [at TAUi] there is the pressure to do your best work possible, and when you work with people who encourage you and teach you and say ‘it’s fine, let’s do it again; this happens’ you have a different outlook on your work.””It’s very nice to know that … you are contributing to the cause,” she concluded.
Source: Jerusalem Post

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