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Research in the Netherlands on how to fight cancer

The former student of the Master in Biomedical Engineering, Oscar Lapuente, narrates his experience as a doctoral student in Eindhoven.

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Oscar Lapuente PHOTO: Communication Service
06/02/20 12:05 Communication Service

Oscar Lapuente, a former student of the Master's in Biomedical Engineering, wanted to leave Spain and dedicate himself to research. He has now spent two years in Eindhoven doing a doctorate focused on improving the efficacy of immunotherapy against cancer.

Why did you decide to go to the Netherlands?

An opportunity arose there for me to do my Master's Thesis, with the possibility of continuing on to do a PhD. I was very interested in the topic of the project, and after several Skype interviews, we both seemed to agree. Two weeks later I was already in the Netherlands. Obviously, before making the decision, I did some research about the Netherlands, the city, the Technical University of Eindhoven where I was going to go... I also asked professors of the Master's programme for their opinions. I saw that it was an excellent opportunity, so I went there.

What does your thesis consist of?

Did you know that you can fight cancer with your own body? Just as when you have a cold, you are eventually cured of this cold by the reaction of the immune system. Immunotherapy has proven to be very effective and to achieve surprising results, producing long-lasting and lasting responses in patients, but only 20 to 40% of patients manage to benefit from it. And what we want to understand is precisely this, the heterogeneity that exists among patients. To do this, we are going to develop a model, using statistical learning, to find biological markers that can help distinguish those patients who are likely to respond favourably to treatment, and of course, also try to make the predictions as accurate as possible.

Why did you decide to go into research?

I am restless, curious and always eager to learn. Without a doubt, this is what led me to choose research. I also really enjoy teaching and, although it is a bit far away, I would like to work as a teacher at the university. In general, since I started my studies, I have been fascinated by the work our professors do. Now, after almost a year of dedicating myself to research, I still have the same enthusiasm and excitement. I would stress that research is a multidisciplinary field that allows you to be in contact with different professionals and requires you to keep up with new changes.

What do you highlight from this experience?

From a professional point of view, I emphasise the ability to analyse problems and come up with possible solutions. Working in English, which is a universal language, has enriched me a lot. Also, the contact with people from many countries, whether at university, conferences or courses. At the same time, I have had the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant in master's and bachelor's degree courses. This has helped me to improve my communication skills.

Do you think you were well prepared for the Master's programme?

Of course! At no time have I ever felt that I didn't have the right skills to deal with a problem. I think that everything I learned in the Master's, in one way or another, has helped me. Firstly, to get this position as a doctoral student because of how qualified I was, and secondly, because of the learning obtained in terms of working in a team, valuing all the members of the team. The human education received at the School has helped me to face this new challenge in the Netherlands.

What would you highlight from your time at the School?

All the personal relationships I have gained at the School, from classmates to teachers. I still keep in touch with them because I think the School is a big family. Without going any further, I have coincided in Eindhoven with a classmate of mine, with whom I didn't have much contact, and the same situation of being far from home has helped us to establish contact and become friends.

What is your daily life like in the Netherlands? 

During the week I love to do sports. I do crossfit and boxing. I'm also learning Dutch and I make a lot of plans with my colleagues. I've been very lucky because both my co-workers and my flatmates are great - and I live in a house with seven people! We go camping, we travel around the country, we go climbing, cycling, to festivals...

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