by Pauline Dumez
It is with a great pleasure that I report on my experience enabled by the EAN Research Fellowship Programme. My research training took place over a period of 24 weeks (1 March to 15 August, 2021) at the Neuroinfection Laboratory of the Institute for Infectious Diseases (IFIK) in Bern, under the co-supervision of Prof. Stephen Leib and Dr Denis Grandgirard. This was during one year of availability in my Neurology residency, dedicated to a biomedical research master’s degree in the field of Fundamental Infectiology. My main objective was to broaden my skills in neurology towards neuroinfectiology, which to date does not find a dedicated university educational field in France.
The Neuroinfection Lab’s work is focused on infectious diseases of the brain with an emphasis on processes of neuronal injury and brain tissue repair in bacterial meningitis and viral encephalitis models. Prof. Leib’s team are recognised as experts in combined in-vitro and in-vivo models of CNS infections, assessment of parameters of brain inflammation and damage and the pre-clinical evaluation of molecular therapeutics. Based on the team’s previous work on Streptococcus pneumoniae, I had the opportunity to work on a dedicated project, an experimental model of neurolisteriosis induced by a neurotropic strain of Listeria monocytogenes, aiming to characterise clinical, biological and histopathological parameters to establish therapeutic targets.
Since the first day, I was actively involved in all the laboratory activities. Thanks to the constant support and help of the other lab members, I had the opportunity to learn and apply a variety of techniques, such as histopathology procedures, tissue staining, fluorescent microscopy, immunoprecipitation, and molecular biology. The daily discussion of protocols, results and research approaches was very formative. Above all, being in charge of all the aspects of the project from the experimental work to data analysis, working independently gave me the chance to improve my critical approach to research and scientific method.
I had the opportunity to be fully integrated into the lab’s environnement, continuously supervised and mentored by Dr Denis Grandgirard and Prof. Leib, and interacting with all the members of the research group (three doctoral students, three master’s students, two lab technicians). I also had interactions with the entire institute, especially during seminars and meetings. Outside of the lab, I really enjoyed the magnificent landscapes of Switzerland, the city of Bern with its rich history, and of course some great swiss fondues!
My stay at the IFIK fulfilled my expectations. These first steps in the world of medical research gave me confidence in my future projects. The international experience brought me a true open-mindedness and expanded my professional network. Soon starting a science PhD at my home university, this experience in Bern undoubtedly contributed to my professional and personal growth.
I would like to thank the European Academy of Neurology for making this research fellowship possible. I also would like to thank Prof. Leib for accepting me as a master student in his team, despite the special COVID-19 situation. A specific word of gratitude goes to Dr Grandgirard for his much-appreciated scientific guidance, and to the rest of the team for the pleasant working atmosphere and the several conviviality moments outside of work.