Student Natascha Kappeler shares her thoughts on nanoscience education and how her experiences have shaped her research
Replicated from Nature Nanotechnology Feature: Thoughts on an education
My fascination for nanoscience began in 2002, while I was still in high school in Switzerland. At an outreach event organized by the University of Basel, they presented a new, and at the time ground-breaking, degree in 'nanoscience'. I was instantly captivated by the subject and that excitement has not vanished since. Discovering the building blocks of life, studying how the characteristics of materials change at the nanoscale, and exploring the multidisciplinarity of the topic are what drive my enthusiasm for doing nanoscience research every day.
In education, multidisciplinarity is challenging, because it is impossible to comprehensively teach all of the different disciplines that are important in nanoscience. My undergraduate studies in Basel comprised an overflowing schedule of predominantly physics, chemistry and biology courses, spiked with mathematics and information technology. Lectures spanned quantum mechanics, supramolecular chemistry, systems biology, epigenetics and computational simulations, to name just a few. These were complemented with laboratory practicals and industry placements, which taught us the basics of doing research in the field and the different discipline-specific languages and approaches.
However, the only way to excel in a course that consists of almost three full undergraduate curricula was by interconnecting with other students. Therefore, we created a 'nanostudy network' in which we benefited from each other's individual strengths. Through this we were able to acquire key transferable skills such as problem solving, knowledge acquisition, and building and nurturing a scientific network. Importantly, we recognized that knowledge gaps are nothing to fear, but rather to be sought with curiosity and an open mind, as overcoming them is essential for professional development. Furthermore, I sat on the education board of the university and helped to continually shape and improve the curriculum.
During my subsequent master's studies at Basel, moving to international research groups was encouraged. This ultimately led me to pursue my PhD in London, which tackles one of the greatest challenges to society — antibiotic resistance. I think my nanoscience education has been an excellent preparation for doing research in the field and has given me the confidence to fearlessly tackle interdisciplinary problems.