Interview with Erasmus student Fulya

Fulya Koc is a senior student at Bilkent University, Turkey. This summer (2022), she joined the Thurston Lab for two and a half months for an internship with the Erasmus Internship Mobility for Traineeship programme. We asked Fulya some questions so that she could share her experience with those who are considering doing something similar.

Pizza in the park to wish Fulya farewell.

How has your Erasmus mobility period at Imperial College shaped your view on research?

Previously, my experience with research was mainly focused on creating new applications, therapies, etc. due to my lab’s focus in Turkey. However, here, I had the chance to do research with the goal of learning new things about existing biological systems by testing hypotheses. I realized that I really enjoy this process of searching for known information, creating a hypothesis, and testing it. Especially the joy I felt when the experiments I performed uncovered new knowledge that wasn’t known before. This was immense! Thus, I feel that I have now a broader perspective on possible research opportunities and what I might enjoy more.

What did you learn in Dr. Thurston’s lab?

Fulya in the lab

In terms of techniques, before my internship I didn’t have any experience with tissue culture, working with human or animal cells; or bacterial infection, and after 3 months I feel like I have improved a lot! In addition, even though I was a bit nervous about using a confocal microscope, I learned to image using the microscope and realized it is a really useful technique and nothing to be scared of. Aside from the lab techniques, I believe that learning how to plan my time and my experiments to achieve maximum efficiency, and making realistic plans were the best gains I have had here. And last but definitely not least, I had the chance to observe the work of other people in the lab through weekly lab meetings and even to help with the final marathon of an article getting ready for publishing. This helped me learn what is necessary for high-quality scientific works and publications, which I believe will be a great reference for my future work.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I really enjoy theater and musical theater. I even took part in a few plays before; however, I didn’t really have time to continue after I started college. Nowadays, I mostly like watching live or even from an online recording. London was heaven for me in terms of finding amazing shows! Other than that, I really like to watch TV series in my free time. I feel that it helps me relax, empty my head, and get away from the stress and the problems of the real world.

What was the best bit about living in London over summer?

London was a huge sea of possibilities! The best part of London for me was never having to worry about finding something to do in my free time considering all the tourist attractions, fun activities, and great shows as I mentioned before. Although I felt lonely at first, going around London even if I was alone, was great. But I must admit, after I made some new friends, it was even better!

What are your goals for the future?

As it is probably obvious from my previous responses, I really enjoyed my time here doing research. I aim to continue my journey in academia and to conduct research by joining a master’s program in the UK or in Europe after I finish my bachelor’s this year. Even though I liked working with bacteria, I know there are many more possible research areas and I want to experience more before I decide on the subject I want to explore in the future.

Finally, how was your experience in the Thurston Lab?

I felt very lucky to be a part of Thurston lab even if it was for a short time period. The people were so kind and helpful. I knew I could ask any question I had, and this helped me a lot in my learning process. With frequent social events, the loneliness I felt in the big city disappeared quickly. In addition, I think the lab environment was so practical with the planned shared work for cleaning, or preparation of some media, buffers, etc., which was perfect for focusing on my own experiments. Overall, I had a great experience and I hope that our paths cross again with the great people I met here.

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