First week: Exploration

Introductions, getting lost, and EDA

As my first day at the UMCG loomed over me, the reality of the journey I was about to embark on dawned on me. I would sit in a building full of PhD candidates, postdocs, professors, and Medicinae Doctors and pretend I belonged among them. I met with the postdoctoral researcher, who would be my daily supervisor, to discuss the project again. Having gotten three assignments to familiarise myself with the data, I was led to a workspace with half a dozen other interns, during which I was trying hard to remember the route we took.

Having unpacked my laptop, I wrote down the assignments and subsequently started writing code to load the data. After an hour or two, my supervisor came to pick me up for my first meeting, a gathering of the Department of Medical Oncology (the department I am attached to) for several general announcements and a PhD student's presentation. My daily supervisor, Arkajyoti "Arko" Bhattacharya, tried conversing with me while the presenter was setting up, which slightly put me at ease, which I wasn't since a crowd of brilliant people surrounded me. While the announcements were clear and primarily meant for students working in the labs, the presentation was on a complex topic involving cancer cell receptors and immune responses; I tried to follow along while more intelligent members of the crowd asked questions I did not understand.

Continuing with my code, I progressed with manipulating the data and produced some plots. Five o'clock came rather quickly. While most other interns left, I finished and headed out into the corridor some twenty minutes later. I knew where to find two things by now: the nearest bathroom and the nearest coffee machine. Remembering passing the coffee machine on our way in, I headed into the hallway until I reached the magic caffeïne provider. After passing the lockers and another short hallway, I descended the stairs and found a set of doors to the outside world. These, however, required an employee badge to open, which I did not yet have. Now recalling walking some distance across the first floor that morning, I headed back up a level and wandered around until finally reaching familiar grounds at a set of blue doors. These doors also required an employee badge, but I knew we passed them on our way up. So, I awkwardly stood there waiting until someone else came past and then slipped through behind them.

Over the following days, having now remembered the route to my office, I kept busy with my assignments, got my UMCG account and employee badge sorted, and provided my university with some required documents. Having interacted more with Arko and others, I understood that the people here, while very knowledgeable, aren't to be feared and are actually rather lovely. The Friday afternoon meeting of Professor Rudolf Fehrmann's research group, which I was now a part of, further reinforced this realisation. While discussing Miss I-forgot-her-name's work, I got brought up to speed on her project and kindly received some of Rudolf's wisdom.

Having met Professor Fehrmann once before, he isn't what books and films suggest professors are like, which I greatly appreciate. With "We don't do titles here" being one of the first things he said to me and, at that Friday meeting, wearing a pink t-shirt, fine dark blue but comfortable-looking trousers, and sneakers on his feet, he is as approachable as an uncle or family friend.

As the last working day of the week ended, I finished the last of my assignments and headed out around half past five, feeling content. I found a project I am passionate about and achieved what I set out to do that week while intelligent but kind individuals surrounded me.