I enjoy the optional subjects most as these often discuss narrower issues in more depth

Klára Odehnalová came to us after graduating from the grammar school in Brno-Řečkovice and she is currently undertaking her Master’s degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics. She is a member of the Generation Mendel student association, which celebrated great success last autumn with its synthetic biology project in the iGEM international competition. Klára is 22 years old and her hobbies include terrariums, scouts and theatre.

12 Feb 2021 Barbora Kameníková

Photo: Helena Brunnerová

What did you want to be when you were young?

When I was little, I wanted to be a vet. I loved animals and I was fascinated by all kinds of living things. Because of this I was always bringing home (against the wishes of my parents) things like stick insects, giant African snails and even (in collaboration with my sister) rats. Now, I have an agama lizard called Teodor as a pet, and he provides me with lots of psychological support when I’m studying.

Why did you choose molecular biology and genetics?

My first contact with molecular biology took place thanks to my SOČ. My project, which I undertook at the Faculty of Science MU, dealt with the detection of borrelia in ticks using molecular biology methods. Even then, I enjoyed it a lot. I was especially fascinated by the principles behind the methods I used in the laboratory. I have always wondered what happens at the cell or cell system level, and about the complex cascade of events and interactions between different molecules that is responsible for the completely normal processes of living organisms. Also, a career in science had begun to attract me at that time, particularly as the industry is still evolving and molecular biology methods are now being used to address a wide range of research topics.

What led you to choose the Faculty of Science in Brno?

To be honest, the fact that I come from Brno played a big role. Also, I didn’t want to stop all the activities that I had been doing in high school, such as leading a scout group and drama. A decisive factor for me was the faculty’s great research activity in the fields I applied for, and the faculty’s cooperation with other research centres.

Would you choose our faculty again?

Yes.

How do you like the environment where you study?

Once you get a bit more oriented and stop getting lost between the endless corridors on the campus, it’s nice. During the semester, the Na Lávce café became the centre of my social life and most of the usual shopping can be done in the Campus Square shopping centre. In addition, there are the state-of-the-art laboratories, a library and CEITEC. What else could you wish for?

Which subject has impressed you most and why?

I must say that I usually enjoy the optional subjects most as these often discuss narrower issues in a little more depth. I have also found molecular biotechnology, working with human aDNA (which included an absolutely amazing practical lecture) and structural biology really interesting and beneficial.

What possibilities are there for involving students in practical research?

The Bachelor’s course is purely theoretical in my field, so if a student wants to get into the laboratory (which I would definitely recommend) they need to show some active interest. Usually, students start attending one of the research laboratories in the second or third year of the Bachelor's degree. My practical sessions in the laboratory (in my case, in the laboratory of DNA-protein interactions at CEITEC) has given me a lot and has definitely been worth it. Usually, it is enough to write an email to the laboratories that interest you and, if they have space for a Bachelor’s student, it is usually not a problem to get involved.

Have you taken the opportunity to study or work abroad?

Not yet, but maybe I would like to in the future.

How did you get into Generation Mendel?

I had known Bara and Standa (who came up with the idea of participating in iGEM) for some time and they mentioned the possibility of participating in the competition during lunch one day. I was certainly intrigued then, but at the same time I was a little scared. In the end, however, I decided to go for it and I definitely do not regret it.

What have you gained from your participation in Generation Mendel?

Thanks to Generation Mendel, I finally managed to establish closer friendships with other students from the faculty. When you spend long days together in the lab or in meetings, you quickly make friends, friends you can count on. Thanks to participating in iGEM, I learned what you need to think about when planning a smaller research project, which is an absolutely priceless experience. We had to make decisions in the lab and no one held our hand, which certainly taught us all a lot. I am definitely able to work much more independently than before. But most of all, Generation Mendel gave me a lot of experiences with an absolutely amazing group of people.

What are your plans for the future?

This year, we are planning to participate in iGEM again, and to gain more experience. Of course, I would like to finish my Master’s degree next year. Sometimes, I play with the idea of extending my studies and going on an Erasmus exchange, but in the current situation I don’t know if it’s reasonable to plan something like that. I would then like to continue my Doctoral studies, either here in Brno at CEITEC or maybe somewhere abroad.

 


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