Vanessa Drevenáková, a young grammar school student, completed an internship at BMC SAS

Vanessa na Festivale vedy a techniky 2019

Vanessa na Festivale vedy a techniky 2019

Vanessa Drevenáková is young, clever, talented, but also incredibly passionate about science and research. She can study and talk about her passion, science, for hours. She is a student at the Milan Hodža Bilingual Grammar School in Sučany and her interest in the topic of cancer diseases brought her to the laboratories of the Biomedical Research Center SAS (BMC SAS). In the summer and in the autumn of 2019, Vanessa completed a two-month internship in the laboratories under the guidance of Mgr. Svetlana Miklíková, PhD. at the Department of Molecular Oncology of the Cancer Research Institute BMC SAS.

In the interview, we asked Vanessa about her internship, what topic she addressed during her internship, what she thinks about working in the laboratory and what her plans are for the future.

Vanessa, in the laboratories of BMC SAS, you finally completed a two-month internship instead of a one-month internship. What is the impulse that inspires a young student to contact scientists and apply for an internship in the laboratory? How did you get this opportunity?

VANESSA: My dream of getting into the lab originates from my deep interest in cancer research. Due to the high incidence of cancer in our family, I decided to study cancer. I started by reading scientific literature and attending lectures, until I finally decided to find out what the individual research teams in Slovakia deal with. I found very interesting the Cancer Research Institute, specifically the Department of Molecular Oncology. I studied in detail projects they are working on at this department, and this motivated me to address the management of this department with a request for an internship.

Yes, my internship should initially last one month, but I liked working in the laboratory so much that it was very difficult for me to leave. During the first month of my internship, I mastered the techniques of experiments and experimental models used in cancer research. After a month of my internship, I received an offer from my trainer Mgr. Svetlana Miklíková, PhD. to spend another month at the department, during which I could try to work on my own research project. I accepted this offer without a single hesitation and so I spent another month at BMC SAS.

How, after a two-month stay in scientific laboratories, do you perceive the work of scientists? Did it meet your expectations?

VANESSA: My vision was to try out what scientific research really entails. The internship that I completed exceeded all my expectations. From the first moment, I fell in love with working with cells, and the long hours spent pipetting and evaluating the results convinced me that one day I want to become a scientist too. I have found that behind all the scientific discoveries there are hours of hard work, a wealth of knowledge, successful but also unsuccessful experiments. I realized how important cooperation is in a scientific team, but also between scientific teams at the international level.

I was very lucky in choosing the department, because the head of the department RNDr. Miroslava Matúšková, PhD., as well as all researchers willingly accepted me and made effort to help me to gain as much knowledge and experience as possible from the internship. I especially appreciate the time they devoted to me during my internship. Thanks to the willingness of scientists at the Department of Molecular Oncology, I had the opportunity to get to know the laboratory and various areas of cancer research in detail. I thank them very much for all this and I will definitely be happy to return to the Department of Molecular Oncology, either as an intern or a PhD. student.

You completed your internship at the Department of Molecular Oncology of the Cancer Research Institute BMC SAS under the guidance of Mgr. Svetlana Miklíková, PhD. What topic, resp. what project did you work on?

VANESSA: Together with my trainer and her research team, I dealt with the tumor microenvironment of breast cancer. The aim was to determine whether the cells contained in the fat around the tumor are subject to changes caused by the presence of the tumor and whether they subsequently promote the growth and spread of this disease. We focused specifically on Mesenchymal Stromal Cells / MSC and analyzed their relationship to tumor cell proliferation, migration and invasiveness.

on the photo from the left: Vanessa, Ing. Silvia Schmidtová, PhD. a Mgr. Svetlana Miklíková, PhD. in the laboratory

With your project, which you also worked on at the BMC SAS, you participated at the Festival of Science and Technology in November 2019, and in May you also participated in Students` Professional Activities contest in the Biology category. How do you evaluate your participation in the mentioned competitions and how did you succeed?

VANESSA: Presenting the results of our own research is part of every scientist’s career. For this reason, I entered the Festival of Science and Technology competition. I appreciate the way of presentation at this competition, we presented our work in the form of a poster. I felt like I was at a scientific conference because we were evaluated by experts in our field. Thanks to that, I had the opportunity to hear opinions or possible suggestions for improving my work. I also like that at this competition, the contestants compete for proceeding to prestigious international contests and conferences. I personally managed to proceed to the EU Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) in Salamanca, Spain, which will take place this autumn.

I entered Students` Professional Activities contest this spring and I managed to get into the national round. We will know the results of the national round soon. (editor’s note: the results of the 42nd year of Students` Professional Activities contest can be found on the contest website / in Slovak)

My results in these competitions would not have been possible without the support of the research team I worked with, for which they deserve a big thank you.

Vanessa, recently you have been matriculated to Imperial College London, which is ranked at the top of the world’s top universities (QS World University Rankings). What are your possible future plans? Is there a place also for science?

VANESSA: I’m very happy to be accepted to Imperial College London because I worked hard on myself and my knowledge to be accepted. Science will always have a place in my life and it does not end with my internship, but on the contrary, it just started. I will be studying Biochemistry at the university and I am already interested in an internship opportunity in London.

Vanessa, we keep our fingers crossed and wish you much success… 🙂


Photos: Vanessa Drevenáková
Translated by: Mgr. Tatiana Šipošová, BMC SAS