Cell News | Issue 03, 2014 - page 10

Cell News 2/2014
Research news
Science is international – going abroad for the Master thesis
Marianne Grafe
Since the beginning of
my studies, I had plan-
ned to spend time in
the United States at an
internship in a research
lab. Even with the eco-
nomic downturn, the
US remains an excel-
lent place for research
and development. Most
funding for research at
American universities
is from the government
via grants or through
global industry leaders.
I decided to apply for a Master thesis project. In Germany there are
a lot of programs and organizations helping students find poten-
tial internships and thesis positions abroad but they usually need
a long lead-time. I started on my own to search for interesting
research groups in the US and asked the professors and faculty
at my university. During my graduate studies at the University of
Potsdam, I discovered my academic interests to be in cell biology
and light microscopy. I was attracted by the chance to join the
Yale Nanobiology Institute directed by 2013 Nobel Prize laureate
James Rothman. I currently work in the lab of Julien Berro, who
is an assistant professor of Molecular Biophysics and Bioche-
mistry and a former postdoc of Thomas Pollard. In my Master’s
thesis research project, I am exploring the temporal evolution of
the structure of clathrin coated pits during endocytosis. I work
with fission yeast and use superresolution microscopy in colla-
boration with David Baddeley's lab.
Preparation – The Twelve Tasks of Asterix
Getting into the program required significant paperwork. I had
to apply for the Visiting Assistant in Research (VAR) program,
which includes fees for the Yale Graduate School. I’m here on a
J1 student visa and thus receive all the student benefits at Yale
University. I most appreciate a free shuttle system, access to the
Payne Whitney Gym and the numerous events organized by the
McDougal Graduate Student Center.
I am fortunate that my PI covers
the fees and a part of the living
costs. Most positions don’t pro-
vide funding or housing. In addition to funding through the Fe-
deral Law on Support in Education (BaföG), the German Acade-
mic Exchange Service (DAAD) supports the PROMOS fellowship
for internships and thesis projects. There are also many other
fellowship opportunities although most of them require an early
application. The other issue is suitable housing. Every university
has networks and social media groups, which make it easier to
find an apartment with or without roommates. I found my room
via Craigslist but had help from the faculty for proving the au-
thenticity. I would recommend planning a short-term residence
at the beginning of the stay and use the first week for apartment
The lesson is clear:
In addition to the opportunity to take part in cutting edge re-
search, the cultural exchange during my time in America will
certainly be beneficial to my future career. I have the chance to
discover both the Yale community and the greater New Haven
community. The international diversity at Yale and in New Haven
has made me think out of the box and tremendously improved
my language skills. Although it is difficult to work on a Master
thesis and get used to a new culture in the short period of 6
months, it is a challenge that I would recommend to every stu-
dent. I will look back on my time in New Haven as a worthwhile
experience for me to grow both academically and socially.
Further information
’New Haven, May 2014. When I first arrived from Germany, the Dean of the Yale Graduate School invited students and faculty to a
spring reception to celebrate the end of the academic year. He stood at the entrance welcoming everyone personally, as I was told he
does every year. As I approached the doorway, my face lit up with excitement. I was so enthusiastic
that I didn't stop talking and forgot to stop shaking his hand. It was him! Thomas Pollard, cell biologist
and Sterling Professor of Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology at Yale University.‘
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