I will definitely return to Brno, young scientist promises

For two months, she participated in our research and worked with neural cells. Katja Klosterman came to the International Clinical Research Center of St. Anne’s University Hospital Brno from the United States for an internship and gained valuable experience under the leadership of Gorazd B. Stokin, the leader of the center. In an interview, she told us how she liked working with cells and what impressions Brno made on her.

Katja, what or who brought you to the scientific career, was it your childhood dream, or did it come later?

When I was younger, I actually wanted to become a dentist.  I remember being obsessed with this toy that I had that allowed me to pretend I was a dentist when I was a kid.  It wasn’t until I grew older that I saw a commercial for a nonprofit that repairs cleft palates that I realized I wanted to do more in the world of global health.  I remember watching this commercial and saying “I want to do that one day.” Since then, my passion for science and medicine has jumped a bit around.  While I’ve always been incapacitated with a curiosity for medicine, the end focus of my scientific career has always revolved around creating the greatest impact for underserved populations.  This dream of mine continues to grow as I learn more about the health challenges that underserved populations have to face every day.

What exactly did you study in the US?

I am currently in my fourth year of my undergraduate studies in Biochemistry with a certificate in Cross Sector Leadership at Arizona State University.

And what brought you to Brno?

It’s actually kind of a funny story that starts with defeat. I had spent the past year pursuing research in Dr. Yonas Geda’s Translational Neurosciences and Aging Project at the Mayo Clinic.  Within that time, I poured my heart and soul into a project for a small grant that my University was offering students that would have allowed me to research the stigmatization of mental health in five low income countries.  Through the extensive mentorship and support that Dr. Geda had offered me as my mentor, I made it to the final stage of this competitive grant.  Unfortunately, it came down to me not receiving the grant, which as you can imagine, was heartbreaking.  After that, Dr. Geda and I reconvened to have a discussion about where I wanted to go from there.  I mentioned that I had wanted to get more hands-on, experimental research in the future to help me determine if I wanted to choose the MD/PhD path that I had been wondering about for so long.  And that’s when he mentioned the opportunity to work in Dr. Gorazd Stokin’s lab at FNUSA-ICRC in Brno.  Ecstatic to hear about this, I immediately threw myself into reading about the research that Dr. Stokin’s lab was doing.
For awhile, I really couldn’t believe that I would have the opportunity to work with neural cells while living abroad in Brno at Dr. Stokin’s lab and  thought it was too good to be true.  I learned so much about research and neuroscience during my time at the ICRC this summer that I am so incredibly grateful for the experience.

And what are your impressions of the internship, will it help you in your next career?

I have always wanted to use my future education and career to help solve global health issues that impact so many. Whether that be in the field of research or in the field of medicine, this internship allowed me to further solidify my passion for science and even led me to discover my love for neuroscience in particular.

What was your idea of the Czech Republic before you arrived here?

To be quite honest, I hadn’t really considered pursuing research in the Czech Republic before Dr. Geda had mentioned it.  I asked a couple of my friends that had been to the Czech Republic what they thought of it when I realized that I might be going to Brno for the summer.  They had nothing but great things to say, so I would say that my idea of the Czech Republic was very idealistic and positive.

And what about Brno, how did you get under your skin?

Brno was one of the most beautiful cities that I have ever lived in.  Where I come from, things are so spread apart and you can’t really walk or bike anywhere.  That’s probably one of my favorite things about Brno- the accessibility of public transportation.  Granted, I had plenty of moments of confusion and some panic where I’d realize I was on the wrong bus line or heading in the wrong direction, but there is just something so magical about living in a city that I can just hop on a couple of buses to get to work. Even when I’d get on the wrong bus line, I’d always be excited (unless I was running late for work of course) to see a new part of town.

What are you going to do now and what are your plans for the future?

Currently, I’m finishing my undergraduate thesis and am planning graduate with my Bachelor of Science in December.  From there, I am hoping to pursue more research while studying for the MCAT and applying for an MD/PhD so that I may continue my education.

Are you planning to come back and visit us again? 🙂

I loved everything about the time I spent in Brno.  The research was exciting and engaging.  The city was beautiful and welcoming. I’ve learned so much through my short time in Brno that I do see myself returning in the future, whether it be for leisure or research.

Katja Klosterman at FNUSA-ICRC, Brno, Czech Republic