Sheri swoops on Swedish Shores – by Sheri Koopowitz

Quicker than I could say ‘Smörgåsbord’, I was whisked away to Sweden- the land of pickled herring, the Vikings, ABBA, and Alfred Nobel- for my month long attachment.

the university (1)

Arriving at the University of Gothenburg

I was sent to the very scenic Gothenburg on the west coast. Autumn is a particularly beautiful season. I have never seen such beautiful hues of reds and oranges before! The stunning architecture and leafy city made for a wonderful and colourful backdrop to my month long stay.

The local architecture.

The local architecture.

Despite the icy cold weather, I had a very warm welcome when I arrived at the University of Gothenburg’s Department of Pharmacology. The department is most proud of their Nobel Prize winner, Arvid Carlsson, for his work on the neurotransmitter dopamine. After a tour of the department and a brief lecture on Carlsson’s work, it was down to business. I was offered two projects to join- a rat study and a genetics study. I said yes to both. I was particularly excited to work on the rat study as I had never been involved in any animal research. Apprehensive at first, I learnt how to habituate research rats to being held by humans (this was my first time holding a rat!). One particularly inquisitive rat decided to nibble on my finger, tearing the glove and breaking my fingernail in the process! But that didn’t discourage me- it was all in the name of science! Once the rats were habituated, baseline startle and freeze measurements were taken then the rats were fear conditioned and further measurements were taken. This was a great experience as I have never been exposed to this type of research before.

the department

The Department of Pharmacology, where I worked during my placement

My hosts were always friendly and helpful. For example, during fika (Swedish coffee break), everyone in the department would sit around a table drinking (strong!) coffee, eating kanelbullar (Swedish cinnamon buns) and talking about their research. It was during these fikas that I learnt the most. If someone ran into trouble with their research, everyone would give advice and suggest possible alternatives. No matter what the original topic of conversation was, it would always revert back to research.  It was an amazing academic environment to be in.


A ‘Kanelbullar’ the size of a plate!

My month-long stay has left a lasting impression on me. I’ve made new friends, acquired new knowledge, tried new foods, learnt a few Swedish words, and got horribly lost a number of times. It has been an amazing experience! Tack för denna möjlighet!

– Sheri