EATRIS Data Internship 2023 – Magdalena Schatka

Published 28 April 2023

Between February 2023 and April 2023 , Magdalena Schatka – PhD student from the University of East Anglia – undertook a placement as a Data Intern for EATRIS. Here Magdalena shares her experience.

Tell us a bit about yourself 

I am a second-year postgraduate researcher at the University of East Anglia, currently working on early heart development within embryos and how this process is genetically regulated. My academic journey began at the University of Vienna, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in biology, followed by a master’s degree in genetics and developmental biology. Although I am passionate about academia and the work I do, I am fortunate to be part of the Norwich Research Park Doctoral Training Program (NRPDTP), a BBSRC-funded studentship that offers Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS placements). The PIPS program allows us to take a break from our lab work and gain valuable experience outside of academia. 

For my PIPS placement, I was excited to get an internship with Gary Saunders, the Data Director of EATRIS. The position at EATRIS immediately caught my interest as it was a change from the lab work, I typically do. As someone who works on basic mechanisms of heart development, I was particularly drawn to the idea of working with a non-profit organisation that helps bridge the gap between fundamental research and the medical field and I was excited to gain a different perspective on this subject.

What did you work on?  

At the start of my internship, Gary gave me a list of things to achieve during my time at EATRIS. As a lab-based molecular biologist, I was looking forward to joining the data team and working in a field that was completely out of my comfort zone. But Gary was helpful and considered my background in his planning, gradually easing me into my new role. In my first two weeks, I got to know EATRIS better, including their goals in translational medicine. Then I dove headfirst into the multi-omics toolbox (MOTBX) project, a key product of EATRIS-Plus flagship project. I learned about different -omics datasets and the corresponding tools, protocols, SOPs, and publications, all made available with FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable). During my time, I worked on refining the content presented on the webpage and gathering feedback on the first draft of the MOTBX homepage, as well as planning a training event for the toolbox, all things I have never done before. Additionally, I joined the weekly team meetings, which allowed me to meet and listen to other members of the EATRIS team, who are working on diverse projects, helping me understand how broad EATRIS’ involvement in translational medicine is. 

The highlight of my internship was the EATRIS Plus Summer School in Personalised Medicine in Lisbon, which was an incredible opportunity to network and learn from experts in various fields. The summer school was attended by a diverse range of participants including clinicians, researchers, and industry professionals, who all shared a common interest in translational medicine and personalised healthcare. The program offered an overview of various topics related to personalised medicine, including in silico tools, clinical trial design, and regulatory aspects. Each day of the program focused on a different theme and consisted of keynote talks, workshops, and interactive sessions. I particularly enjoyed the workshops, which allowed the participants to discuss and use the information presented and apply them to their own research. Even though most participants were working in different fields, it was interesting to see how much people had in common across such a wide array of projects.  

What did you learn during your internship?  

My time at EATRIS during this 3-month internship was truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Not only did I gain a deeper understanding of the fascinating world of data science and digital transformation, but I also got to dip my toes into event planning and presenting in front of experts in the field. Through these experiences, I gained valuable knowledge about -Omics datasets, data management and data FAIRification. But perhaps the most valuable thing I learned is the importance of collaboration and teamwork. Working with the EATRIS team, I saw firsthand how bringing experts from different fields together can lead to transformative work. But I also learned that it’s okay to ask questions and admit when you don’t know something. In fact, it’s often the best way to learn and grow. Overall, this internship has been a great experience and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and contribute to such a dynamic and forward-thinking organisation. And who knows, maybe I’ll even venture out of the lab more often now! 

Would you recommend an EATRIS internship to others?  

Absolutely! I highly recommend an internship at EATRIS to anyone who is interested in translational medicine. Working with the EATRIS team was a fantastic opportunity to learn about the different roles and projects within the organisation. The team was incredibly supportive, and the variety of tasks I was assigned allowed me to develop a range of skills. Plus, I got the opportunity to go to Lisbon and join the EATRIS Plus Summer School. Overall, I feel that this internship has been incredibly valuable for my personal and professional development, and I would recommend it to others.

Anything else you wish to add? 

I would just like to thank Gary, Tanushree and the rest of the team for being amazing during my time at EATRIS. They were really patient and helpful with me as I learned the ropes, and I could not have done it without them. Thanks for making this experience such a blast!