Katja Klosterman came to the International Clinical Research Center of St. Anne's University Hospital Brno from the United States for an internship and gained valuable experience under the leadership of Gorazd B. Stokin, the leader of the center.
Katja, what or who attracted you to this type of career? Was it a childhood dream or did it come to you later?
When I was younger, I actually wanted to become a dentist. As a child, I had a toy that let me pretend I was one. I was obsessed with it. My desire to do more in the world of global health came later, when I saw a commercial for a nonprofit that repairs cleft palates. I remember watching it and saying “I want to do that one day.” Since then, my passion for science and medicine has jumped around a bit. While I’ve always been incapacitated with a curiosity for medicine, the end focus of my scientific career has always revolved around creating the greatest impact for underserved populations. This dream of mine continues to grow as I learn more about the health challenges that these people have to face every day.
What exactly did you study in the US?
I am currently in my fourth year of my undergraduate studies in Biochemistry with a certificate in Cross Sector Leadership at Arizona State University.
And what brought you to Brno?
It’s actually kind of a funny story that starts with defeat. I had spent the past year pursuing research in Dr. Yonas Geda’s Translational Neurosciences and Aging Project at the Mayo Clinic. During that time, I poured my heart and soul into a project for a small grant that my University was offering that would have allowed me to research the stigmatization of mental health in five low income countries. Through the extensive mentorship and support that Dr. Geda offered me as my mentor, I made it to the final stage of this competitive grant. In the end, however, they chose someone else to receive it. I was heartbroken. After that, Dr. Geda and I reconvened to have a discussion about where I wanted to go from there. I mentioned that I wanted to get more hands-on, experimental research to help me determine if I wanted to choose the MD/PhD path that I had been wondering about for so long. And that’s when he mentioned the opportunity to work in Dr. Gorazd Stokin’s lab at FNUSA-ICRC in Brno. I was ecstatic to hear about this and immediately threw myself into reading about the research that Dr. Stokin’s lab was doing.
For a while, I really couldn’t believe that I would have the opportunity to work with neural cells at Dr. Stokin’s lab while living in Brno – it felt almost too good to be true. I learned so much about research and neuroscience during my time at the ICRC this summer. I am so incredibly grateful for the experience.
And what are your impressions of the internship? Will it help you in your career?
I have always wanted to use my future education and career to help solve global health issues that impact so many. Whether that be in the field of research or in the field of medicine, this internship helped me further solidify my passion for science and even led me to discover my love for neuroscience in particular.
What was your impression of the Czech Republic before you arrived here?
To be quite honest, I hadn’t really considered pursuing research in the Czech Republic before Dr. Geda mentioned it. I asked a couple of my friends that had been to the Czech Republic what they thought of it when I realized that I might be going to Brno for the summer. They had nothing but great things to say, so I would say that my idea of the Czech Republic was very idealistic and positive.
And what about Brno? How did it get under your skin?
Brno was one of the most beautiful cities that I have ever lived in. Where I come from, things are so spread out and you can’t really walk or bike anywhere. That’s probably one of my favorite things about Brno – the accessibility of public transportation. Granted, there were plenty of moments of confusion and mild panic when I would realize I was on the wrong bus line or heading in the wrong direction, but there’s just something so magical about living in a city where I can just hop on a couple of buses to get to work. Even when I’d get on the wrong bus line, I’d always be excited to see a new part of town (provided I wasn’t running late for work, of course).
What are you going to do now and what are your plans for the future?
I’m currently finishing my undergraduate thesis and am planning to graduate with my Bachelor of Science in December. From there, I am hoping to pursue more research while studying for the MCAT and applying for an MD/PhD in order to continue my education.
Are you planning to come back and visit us again?
I loved everything about the time I spent in Brno. The research was exciting and engaging. The city was beautiful and welcoming. I’ve learned so much through my short time in Brno that I do see myself returning in the future, whether it be for leisure or more research.