By Jolet Y. Mimpen
When you work in science, every day is a learning experience. Every question that is answered results in more knowledge but also raises even more questions. Sharing the knowledge that we gain is one of the most important parts of our job, accomplished by attending congresses, giving lectures, and publishing articles. Publishing an article is an exciting and educational experience for everyone, but to be able to experience this process as an undergraduate student was something I never thought was possible.
Together with another student from the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Utrecht, I worked on a research project during a course in the second year of our bachelor program. During this course, we developed a faster and easier way to phenotype the CYP1A2 enzyme by measuring caffeine and its metabolite paraxanthine in saliva using ultra high performance liquid chromatography. The CYP1A2 enzyme is a very important P450 enzyme, which plays a crucial role in the metabolism of many pharmaceutical compounds. When we are able to test how well the CYP1A2 enzyme works within an individual in an accurate and simple way, this could be used to dose pharmaceuticals, contributing to the idea of personalized medicine. After we worked on this project for 10 weeks, our teachers thought that we had a real chance to publish this work.
We had already written our results in article style, but when you are actually writing for a publication, you start to look at the results in a new way. There are so many steps in the process: writing the manuscript, rewriting it, submitting it, awaiting a response from the reviewers, doing additional experiments, rewriting and answering the reviewers, and finally resubmitting it. In the third year of our bachelor’s program, our article was accepted and published in the Journal of Chromatography B.
Although many might first learn about this process from a book or during courses within a graduate program, it’s difficult to understand the whole process until you have experienced it yourself. Publishing an article is a journey in itself: from having an idea and looking at the possibilities to finally making it available for the world to see. This has been one of the best learning experiences I’ve had. We were very lucky that our teachers trusted us, encouraged us, and believed that we as students could actually make a valuable contribution to the scientific community, and I hope that many people will follow this example.
I am well aware that this is very special to be able to go through this experience as a bachelor student, but I am positive that, when we truly value the potential of students, it is possible to make this experience happen more often. Students have a fresh and creative view on problems that have been around for a long time. Why would this not be possible?