From confusion to enlightment

“COLO-what?” 

These were exactly my thoughts when I first read about the project online.

But first things first: It was a given for me, that I don’t “only” want to finish my studies with a master’s degree but top it off with a PhD. Additionally, I didn’t want to just do a PhD for a PhD’s sake; I was also looking for something specific.

If you asked me about seven years ago if I believed in love at first sight, I very likely would have laughed out loud and denied.

Well, little did I know at that time how wrong I was: From day one in the practical course “Arzneiformenlehre I” at Ludwig-Maximilians Universität (LMU), pharmaceutical technology casted its spell on me, and I knew at once that it was the field I wanted to stay and work in.

Since then, it has been a constant in my life, accompanying me through my entire studies: These were the practical courses but also lectures and seminars I enjoyed the most. Whenever I had the possibility of choosing a certain pharmaceutical area, I picked pharmaceutical technology.

Later, I also worked as research assistant for quite some time at the chair of pharmaceutical technology at LMU in Munich, which I really enjoyed, and it even increased my interest in the field.

People studying with me always gave me a weird look, because they were not convinced of this area of pharmaceutics. I honestly have to admit you either love pharmaceutical technology or you don’t, black and white, there is no grey zone. This might explain things a little bit.

I remember this particular afternoon as if it was yesterday: I was sitting in front of my computer, looking for PhD positions and it was raining outside. Slowly, I was starting to feel a little uneasy as it was so hard to find positions in my desired area. Most of the offered PhDs were in the field of pharmaceutical biology or pharmacology. Don’t get me wrong, two important sections of pharmaceutics, but not what I could imagine focusing on my entire life.

Going through job advertisements, I stumbled over this website and thought: “COLO- what?” I couldn’t really work with the name “COLOTAN” in the first moment and was trying to figure out the author’s intention and the actual meaning of the word. Continuing to read the ad, I understood it was supposed to refer to colon targeting of drugs. That was the moment, when I thought there has to be a position covering pharmaceutical technology and there was:

ESR 4- The delivery of peptides, proteins, antibodies, and nucleic acids to the colon. I always wanted to do formulation and work on the stability of biologics, so for me there was only one option: applying for the job.

It was quite a task to get all the necessary documents for the application in order, the letters of recommendation, the European CV, but also the official proof of the English language proficiency. I never took a TOEFL in my life, but now was the time.

Also looking back, I think, I have never been as nervous as I was when I had to introduce myself and my professional background to the committee, including answering questions about a paper related to colon targeting.

I didn’t even reach this level of nervousness during the defense of my master’s thesis. Thinking about it, I can still feel my heart pounding like crazy.

And guess what, here I am, sitting at my desk at Eurofins CDMO, working on my PhD focusing on the stability of biologics.

Although it was quite a task to relocate to another country and get all the administrative tasks done, I can surely state I have never been as happy in my life as I am now, and I am very thankful for being able to follow my dreams.

I am excited about what is to come during the upcoming four years, but there is one thing I am already pretty sure of. I haven’t only fallen for pharmaceutical technology at first sight, but now also for my new home: Belgium.

by Katharina Kopp

Gent