“I want to do science all my life”

“I want to do science all my life”

Dies Natalis Master's Prize Winner: Jarno Koetsier

23-04-2024 · Interview

Losing your orientation. Becoming more and more forgetful. Not being able to finish a sentence anymore. Dementia dominates the everyday lives of almost 300,000 Dutch people and it is still not curable. An early diagnosis could help. “Unfortunately, the early detection of dementia is currently hardly objective. The GP measures your blood pressure and lets you fill in a list of questions. It’s not really standardized,” says Jarno Koetsier, alumnus of the masters’ Systems Biology. He is convinced that this could be improved.

That's why, for his nine-month thesis internship during his master’s, he applied for a place in a research team that is working on predicting dementia. The method, it seems like, is not that difficult after all. “All what is needed for it are blood samples, because the change of the blood cells – in technical jargon called methylation – is measured”, Koetsier lays out. A process that has actually not yet been used in practice because it is still extremely expensive and not sufficiently researched. However, given the increasing number of dementia cases in recent years, there is certainly a demand from politics and society to deepen the research needed for the procedure.

Koetsier felt right at home in the laboratory from day one. The in-depth, scientific and impactful work was simply his thing. “I immediately noticed: I wanted to do this all my life.” But the master's student also repeatedly reached his limits: after all, he had to deal with several data sets, filled with thousands of patients, with over 800,000 data points per patient. “I realised that I had way too many results. And my model wasn't accurate either. So I had to change something. But what?” Koetsier needed to take some time to think. Then he started again, and this time, he finished his research, and also the accompanying master’s thesis.

But not only that. He was also quite successful. In addition to his master's thesis being awarded the Dies Natalis Thesis Prize – a prize for the best theses of the academic year – the study he worked on during the internship has now also been published. “With me in the first place among the other authors”, the otherwise rather reserved Koetsier blossoms. “I think that’s really great.” And of course, after completing his master’s degree, he decided to do a PhD. “Being a scientist is just great. You’re always looking for something new, and ultimately, you’re the first to see the results in the lab.”

Thesis prizes

Every year during the Foundation Day celebrations, prizes are awarded to students who wrote the best bachelor’s and master’s theses. They receive a certificate and a cash prize of 500 euros. Observant interviewed eight of them. 

Author: Simon Wirtz

Illustration: Simone Golob

Categories: news_top, Science
Tags: dies natalis, master thesis prize, Jarno Koetsier, dementia

Add Response

Click here for our privacy statement.

Since January 2022, Observant only publishes comments of people whose name is known to the editors.