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Student Biomedical Sciences: Oncology

Ronak Shah
Photo: Ronak Shah

From India to Amsterdam

‘My name is Ronak Shah. I was born in Mumbai but have been brought up initially in Oman and then in Dubai. After finishing high school in Dubai, I moved to India to pursue my Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology. I was fascinated by recombinant DNA technology at the time and wanted to learn more about how such mechanisms worked on an industrial scale. My aim was to be able to join a biotech company in the near future and hopefully start my own later. As I dwelled into the field of cancer therapeutics during my Bachelor’s programme, I was surprised by how treatments designed in the 1960s were still the primary options for treating cancer. I realised that I needed to learn more about cancer as well as how research was conducted in a lab. My bachelor’s project involved constructing silica nanoparticles as cancer drug carriers and improving upon their biocompatibility. The project instigated me to learn more about cancer but my degree in biotechnology was not sufficient to enter the medical field.’

State of the art institutes

‘The University of Amsterdam answered my prayers and allowed me to join their Biomedical Sciences: Oncology programme. The courses conducted at state of the art institutes such as AMC and NKI were illuminating. Through the Experimental Oncology course at the NKI, a world of different possibilities of cancer research opened up for me. My first internship was at the NKI under the guidance of Dr. Olaf van Tellingen where I worked on radio sensitisation of glioblastomas using cell-cycle targeting inhibitors. This opportunity allowed me to design various biochemical assays and to use flow cytometers. The internship also provided me the platform to interact with the clinical department wherein I learned about the way in which clinical trials were conducted. I followed this up by doing a literature review on dendritic cell vaccines under the guidance of Dr. Jannie Borst. I am currently studying mitophagy under the guidance of Dr. Nicholas Ktistakis at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge. Pursuing diverse fields such as pharmacology, immunology and cell biology from a perspective of cancer treatment was quite insightful for me as I got to work with molecular and cell biology, biochemistry, animal work as well as pharmacology. I hope to follow this up with a possible PhD where I am able to combine experience acquired from two or more of these fields. My learning curve has been great so far and I don’t want it to stop.  Therefore, I would like to do a PhD in Amsterdam as you get to work with world-class scientists and professionals in the field.’

Amazing Amsterdam

‘The laidback life combined with the tenacious effort to alleviate society’s health problems is what attracted me to Amsterdam. Concerning my student life in Amsterdam, I have had a blast. The university is an amazing place to meet people from different nationalities and walks of life, no matter if you are a 16-yr old or 40-yr old pursuing a Master’s degree. I love trying to speak Dutch, learning cooking from Italians and dancing on Latin music with Spanish friends. With the university, I have tried to take part in student seminars and open days where I am able to explain to Bachelor’s students and the general public about my work and the reason I chose the UvA. I always am available to guide people with budding interest in my field.’