Academy Job Shadow Days report

Elske Rotteveel at the Hubrecht Institute

Elske Rotteveel, project manager and research assistant for the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure project, part of NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, shadowed Harry Begthel, research analyst for the Clevers histology group at the Hubrecht Institute.

Elske Rotteveel visits Harry Begthel

I’m very impressed by everything that happens at the Hubrecht Institute. Harry showed me what he does. He was very articulate about his work and he and his colleagues taught me a lot. What Harry does is prepare tissue in the laboratory for microscopic research. Preparation involves a whole series of precise steps. He fixes the tissue in paraffin and then removes very thin slices of it. He then places the slices in a series of different solutions to dissolve the paraffin and attaches the tissue to a glass slide for inspection under the microscope. Harry also sees to it that specific cells are dyed certain colours, so that they can be spotted easily. He let me look at slices of tissue under the microscope. The last time I used a microscope was in secondary school! It was really fascinating! 

What did you learn that you didn’t know before?

That cancer cells look different from one patient to the next. One person’s cancer cells might be shaped like a balloon, while the other has a much compacter cluster of cancer cells, even though both have the same type of cancer. So it’s actually quite logical that a particular treatment will be effective for one person and less effective for another. The Hubrecht Institute leads the way in developing personalised cancer drugs. They cultivate cells from tissue that’s been removed from patients and then test which drug is most effective for that patient in the lab. I was also allowed into the lab where they cultivate and divide cells for research. 

What struck you most about the Hubrecht Institute?

The size! It’s so big! And there are so many young people working there! Everyone was very gracious and helpful. The Hubrecht Institute and NIOD are very different organisations. We focus mainly on the context, whereas the Hubrecht Institute has a much more tangible aim. A lot of laboratory work is practical in nature, more like a craft. But what we have in common is that we both work for science. We both want to do good. And at both institutes, what matters is what we ultimately do with the results. What do they mean for society? That’s probably true of all the Academy institutes. Next time the Job Shadow Days roll around, I'm going to visit another institute to see how they do things there!

Good to hear, Elske! We’ll see you during the next Job Shadow Days!