Lisa van Baarsen

Born 7th of August 1980, Volendam, Netherlands

  • Current position: Principal Investigator at the AMC and project leader in several national and international research projects.
  • Educational background: Medical Biology at the Laboratory of Higher Education, completed in 2001.

My interest in translational research was stimulated during my internship at the AMC within the department of Cell Biology and motivated me to apply for a PhD position. Within the group of Prof Dr. Cor Verweij at the Department of Molecular Cell Biology and Immunology at the VU Medical Center I could start as a research technician with the opportunity to obtain a PhD position depending on funding and demonstrated skills.

In 2004 I started my PhD research focussed on the discovery of biomarkers for diagnosis, prognosis and treatment response in autoimmune diseases using pharmacogenomics and pharmacodynamics high-throughput approaches. Besides publications, my PhD research has led to three patent applications that formed the basis for a company Preselect Diagnostics B.V. founded by Prof.dr. Cor Verweij.

My PhD project strengthened my interest in using innovative discovery based tools to answer translational research questions focussed on disease pathogenesis. After successfully finishing my PhD (2009), I accepted a combined function as postdoc and team leader at the AMC within the multidisciplinary department chaired by Prof.dr. Tak. As a team leader of a group of 8 research technicians I acquired considerable management experience. To pursue my ambition to establish my own research group I successfully applied for a VENI and Dutch Arthritis Foundation grant which enabled me to initiate in 2011 my own research line.

Last year I have been appointed as Principal Investigator at the AMC and I am currently supervising 3 PhD students and 1 research technician. Furthermore, I am a project leader in several national and international research projects. My current research line is focussed on unravelling the molecular and biological processes leading to systemic autoimmune diseases by studying human lymph node and synovial tissue biopsies obtained during the earliest (pre-clinical) phases of rheumatoid arthritis. Ultimately, this research will increase our understanding of the earliest phases of rheumatoid arthritis and obtained data may be translated to the development of novel diagnostic tests and treatment strategies.


Hannelie Semmelink

Born 18 December 1985, Pretoria, South Africa

  • Current position: Research Technician in the department Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, department of Experimental Immunology, AMC.
  • Educational background: MSc Biotechnology with focus on cellular and molecular work, completed 2010.

My job as research technician involves a lot of hands-on work in the laboratory as well as an organizational component in the form of keeping sample databases, ensuring that reagents are being ordered and keeping in contact with representatives of companies from which we buy reagents. Additionally, I aid in the guidance of students doing their internships within our group.

What I really like about my job is the variety of projects I get to work on, as I get to do the experimental work to support computational analysis done by my supervisor, as well as assist in the experimental work of PhD students within our group. In many of the projects I work on I get to run the entire experimental part, the planning phase up to and including the data analysis. Additionally, I get to set up and optimize new techniques, starting with literature searches up to the testing and optimization. This gives me the opportunity to learn and master a broad variety of techniques. Although I am not responsible for writing papers, I do get to give input on papers resulting from projects on which I worked on.

Since I have completed an Msc I often get asked why not continue and do a PhD? The reason for this because the part about research which I like most is working in the laboratory. Although not a 100% guarantee, most of the job options after completing a PhD will eventually lead to less lab time and more computer work. My advice; consider carefully if doing a PhD will open the door to the career options you are aiming for. If a PhD does not seem like the right step but you would like to stay in research, consider becoming a research technician.


Hilde Brouwers

Current position: PhD student at Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), conducting research on osteoarthritis.
Education background: Biomedical Sciences at the VU, completed in August 2013.

Performing internships is one of the most important part of your study. I had deliberately chosen for the internships I performed and I was aware of my fields of interest. During my first internship, I learned the basic methods: pipetting, keeping a lab journal and giving presentations. Doing this internship was the perfect choice, because after this, I realised what I wanted to do: doing research.

I conducted my first master internship at the VUMC. This choice was based on the techniques I was going to perform and the location. Here, I closely worked together with doctors, in order to decide whether I wanted to continue my career in studying medicine.

I completed my final internship at the Erasmus MC where I learned everything in the field of immunology and that was exactly the area where I wanted to extend my knowledge in. I became more experienced and broadened my network. During my whole study I was focusing on performing scientific research and I realised that I was eager to do a PhD-track.

From April 2013 (I graduated in August 2013), I began applying for PhD vacancies on the immunologic field at departments spread throughout the country. To prepare for this, I asked my supervisors of the Erasmus MC for some advice. What is important when you are applying for a PhD? The answer was clear. Of course you need to be suitable for the position, but the most important aspect is to be very enthusiastic.

I applied for four positions and I was invited to three interviews. Eventually I got accepted at my current position via the LinkedIn network of my supervisor. My supervisor recommended me for a position at the Rheumatology department of the LUMC. I was able to begin directly after my study and I work here for three years with great pleasure!

Tips for students who are looking for a job:

  • Be aware of applying for jobs during the end of your study. Maybe you are able to continue at the department where you performed your internship. This will reduce the pressure of finding a job when you are already graduated.
  • Ask your internship supervisors and teacher if they know suitable jobs you are interested in. They have the ability to judge this in a good way and this will prevent making wrong choices.
  • Your network is important. Do not stick to certain departments for your internships and preferably not to one university. By far, the most vacancies are not posted on the Internet. Thus, stay connected with researchers and let everyone know you are looking for a job.
  • Be assertive and enthusiastic during your search for a job. It might surprise you but that will distinguish you from the many other applicants.


Sabine Spijker

I studied Biology at the VU, with a specialization in Neurobiology. Because Biomedical Sciences was still in its early stages, Neurobiology was the only possible specialization students could choose.

We were only with a total of 5 students, so we were able to discuss a lot about the subjects with our teachers. It was quite easy to arrange an internship at the Neurobiology lab as there was so little competition. After two long internships (9 months) I graduated. Due to these internships, I was able to conduct my promotion research on structural and functional relations of enzymes involved in the production of hormones in the Lymnaea Stagnalis. After my promotion in 1999, I received a grant for performing research on genomic effects of addictive substances in mouse models. To receive this grant, I first had to do an interview in Scotland. When I returned I could work at the VU again, where I already was co-supervisor of some PhD students while I was in France.

In the following years I expanded research on changes in the brain caused by addictive substances. Being in charge during your research and deciding what you want to investigate, is something I really appreciate.

Since addiction is commonly shown in depression and addiction has great similarities with learning and (traumatic) memories, I brought my research in a broader context (attention- and impulsiveness disorders, depression, learning and memory). I am particularly interested in how molecular changes in the brain can lead to behaviour.

In 2012 I was appointed as Fenna Diemer Lindeboom professor at the VU. Honestly, I actually do not like such a preference policy, but on the other hand it was a good opportunity to make some improvements on the VU. Besides that, I am aware of the fact that I am a role model for the younger generation.

Maybe you already know me or possibly will see me during the course Human Development. That is quite a different subject, but as scientist every study and knowledge of the functioning of the human body is extremely interesting, but especially the brains of course.

In the search for an internship or a job it is very important that are motivated because of the content and not because you happened to have the opportunity. If you can make that very clear, you will have an advantage comparing to your competitors.