Doing a doctorate – are we students or teachers? Practical courses at the University of Milan

By 2nd December 2019 Marie-Curie Ambassador

Doing a PhD is definitely complex! Sometimes it means researching and learning for yourself, other times it means teaching and training others. In fact, according to a study of Bettinger et al. (2016), graduate students who teach more frequently are more likely to graduate in a timely manner and more likely to subsequently be employed by a college or university in their early careers. So, it seems that this practice benefits both the PhD and the Master or Bachelor students.

That was very clear for our ESRs Gabriela Avila Morales (ESR 2) and Rafaela Furioso Ferreira (ESR 6), together with the PhD student from the University of Milan, Valentina Zamarian. They participated in giving practical classes to Master student’s in Veterinary Biotechnology Sciences from the University of Milan, assisting Prof. Fabrizio Ceciliani in a four weeks practical course. The students were trained in the isolation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from bovine total blood, specifically lymphocytes and monocytes, which were later seeded into plates. These cells were used for a small in vitro experiment examining the impact of a viral infection. The students were taught how to perform RNA extraction, DNAse treatment, retrotranscription in order to switch from RNA to cDNA, and finally perform real time PCR (q PCR). They analysed the expression of cytokines involved in immune response, and how the virus infection could affect then the expression of TH1 switching in lymphocytes.

The practical classes were also a good opportunity to utilise the new state of the art facilities of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Milan, in the newly established campus situated in Lodi, which has advanced laboratories dedicated solely to teaching.

This exercise was a great experience for both the students and the ESRs, and a confirmation that we can both teach while learning and learn while teaching.


Written by Rafaela Furioso Ferreira