Master classes help expand the network of postdoctoral researchers

Students showing mastery of research during recent global health master class

AIGHD provided 12 PhD candidates and postdoctoral researchers the opportunity to present their work and get feedback from their peers and the Chairs during two master classes last week.

These first ever AIGHD master classes were organized in the spirit of Prof. Joep Lange who relentlessly shared his knowledge with the wider world. The classes were part of a three-day event bringing together all four Joep Lange Chairholders – Profs. Dan Ariely, Anna Vassall, Mark Dybul and Catherine Kyobutungi.

The Joep Lange Chair and Fellows program was established in the honor of Prof Lange to commemorate the ground-breaking contributions of him to HIV and global health research and to advance his scientific legacy of cutting edge, innovative approaches to health. Prof. Lange, who founded AIGHD, and his partner Jacqueline van Tongeren were killed when Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine in July 2014.

Late-stage PhD candidates and early-career postdoctoral fellows from the Netherlands and beyond were invited to submit an abstract for consideration. A Scientific Review committee carefully read and ranked each submission. The 12 highest-scoring abstracts were invited to present their work to the Chairs and their peers, who included those who had submitted abstracts and local global health students.

The purpose of the master class was to bring students from different disciplines together to network, learn from each other and draw inspiration from the Chairs. Students also received guidance from the Chairs and engaged in discussions around particular challenges in global health that they are researching.

“The master classes were a great learning opportunity, not only for the presenting students but also for the master’s students who observed the class. They told me that the master class they attended was an eye-opening experience that helped them understand what a career in global health would entail. The master’s student saw how researchers and professors interact and how studies are conducted in the field. They are now motivated to pursue further research in this field.” said Dr. Guus ten Asbroek, Education Coordinator at AIGHD.

For presenters, the opportunity to connect with like-minded peers was an added benefit.

“I am here to communicate with Senior professors to share ideas and talk about the future of collaborative research,” said Dr. Legese Merkuria, who presented on a digital healthcare platform for surveillance of antibiotic prescriptions in Kenya.

“This masterclass really brings together master students, senior professors and middle level researchers like me, so it’s a very good opportunity for networking […] and the networking component is really important. I like these institutes [the Joep Lange Institute, PharmAccess and AIGHD] because of the collaboration options and the multidisciplinary character in a lot of their projects and studies.”

Dr. Serena Cruz also presented her work during the master class and she thought it was time well spent:

“The experience was enriching and enjoyable. I appreciated the feedback from the Chairs in my class, Profs. Mark Dybul and Professor Anna Vassall, as well as their consideration of my work. I also found it very helpful in terms of making more contacts that can help further my research aims,” said Dr. Cruz.

These were the first master classes that AIGHD organized and given the positive feedback from Chairs, presenters and observes, it will be something the institute will host again in the future.