Hello everyone! I hope you are having an amazing and relaxing summer. As you may have noticed, I have been away for some weeks, because I am also enjoying my summer holiday. However, during this time I have had a lot of time to reflect on how my first year at the Toxicology programme was. During my blog I will portrait the most significant reflections and experiences that I had on the past academic year.
1. Learn by doing
This first reflection does not only apply to my programme. It also applies to all levels of education in Sweden. Here, I will discuss some key aspects on why this learning system was so effective during my first year. When you are new to a topic, learn by doing is the best way get familiar with it. For instance, by doing practical exercises on new topics such as modelling toxicokinetics transcriptomics, we fulfilled the learning outcomes.
The next thing is that in order to understand how, say a software or coding language works, it is necessary to work on it by yourself rather than only reading the theory. For example, during the last course we had theory on how a toxicity predictor tool called QSAR works. However, until we practiced it, is when we realized how this tool indeed predicted toxicity. Finally, by performing our own mechanistic research on a chemical was a great for learning and getting deeper understanding. This implies that you must read a lot, investigate many different sources and extract specific information.
2. Organization and order
I consider myself to be a person who loves organization and that everything in its place. For this reason, the Tox programme and Karolinska Institutet have been so far a great experience for me. I can tell that the whole programme and its contents are perfectly organized and synchronized. This means that we had the 97% of all lectures, seminars and workshops but also, that we always got course material, feedback and grades on time. In addition, the lectures and seminars were planned in order not to exceed the scheduled time for each session. Finally, the organization of the group activities was done in a way that we always had enough time to work and discuss on it.
3. Group work, group work and more group work
One very significant trait of my programme is the great amount of group work we have all year around. I must admit that I am not a big fan of working in groups. However, it is vital to learn how to work with others because that is how professional life is. For instance, from day 1 we had to discuss what toxics surround us in our daily life. From now on, in every workshop, almost every seminar, some lectures and other learning activities we had to work in groups and do a plenty of discussions. These discussions were important to clarify doubts, understand other perspectives and learn from each other.
I consider that during the second course of the year, is when we had the most intensive group work. This was because during the whole course (2 months), we had to work in groups of 5 people investigating and trying to give solutions to different cases. I personally did not feel group work so heavy in other courses probably because the activities we had were very small and simple, but also because we had more time for them. In conclusion, I can say of myself that I learned and improved how to work with others a lot. However, this personal achievement was not easy, given that it took a lot of me to be more patient and open.
4. Applications of the Toxicology programme beyond Academia
Something that captivated me from the beginning was to realize the potential job opportunities that we can have as toxicologists. As the months passed, I started to notice all the possibilities I could have for jobs. That made me very happy because I knew that I was on the right track. When you are looking for a master’s programme in science, what comes first to mind is to continue within the Academia field. However, at this programme I realized the wide range of work options beyond Academia that we can have. Some of the jobs we can get involve mostly the pharma industry, regulatory agencies for food and cosmetics, as well as epidemiological surveillance.
5. Everything can be toxic!
I have talked about this several times before, but this time I am going to explain more in detail why it is so important. Everything surrounding us in our environment can be toxic depending on several factors such as exposure route, duration, frequency, dose and toxicological properties of a substance. Understanding and controlling (when possible) these factors, is vital in order to protect human health while we generate new safe substances for daily use. What I mentioned above, is basically what we toxicologists do. We do everything we can in order to protect human health and develop safe substances. This may sound simple, but it is indeed very complex because we need a lot of preparation, information and methods in order to carry on our job successfully.
To finalize this blog, I would like to say that after one year I am more than happy in my programme and I do not regret having chosen it. I have learned a lot, have made very good friends and want to keep developing myself as toxicologist! I LOVE MY PROGRAMME!
You can contact me via e-mail:
My name is Aline Colonnello Montero, I am twenty five years old and I come from the wonderful but busy Mexico City. I consider myself to be a perseverant person who works hard to meet all my goals and ambitions. I have a bachelor’s degree in Biology and I currently study the Master’s programme in Toxicology at Karolinska Institutet. My job as part of the digital ambassadors’ team consists on writing blogs