Patric Wallin - lifelong learning
Patric Wallin, PhD student at the division of Biological Physics, originally from Germany who decided, four years back, to study his master's degree at Chalmers - stayed ever since.
You can really tell that Patric enjoys working in the academic environment by his great ambition and passion for learning. His journey started in 2007 when Patric first came to Chalmers as an Erasmus student, after getting his Bachelor degree from Leibniz University in Hannover in 2008. Patric graduate in the biomedical engineering master’s program at Chalmers, 2009.
Patric tells me a fascinating story about how he was educated as a mechanical engineer in Hannover, but how he started to grow a bigger interest for biomedicine during his master’s degree at Chalmers. The courses given by Julie Gold were one of the reasons for this change and accelerated this process by opening up a door to something new.
“The reason why my interest in tissue engineering grew bigger than to mechanical engineering was because of my wish to gather new data rather than developing and optimizing already existing technologies. I feel a greater passion to study something that has not been discovered before and something “real”. For instance, I know that I can take my cells out of the incubator, place them under the microscope, see things that no one else have seen, and perform experiments no one else has done.”
With this said, Patric continues his story about how he wrote his master thesis about tissue engineering skeletal muscles, how he finished his MSc degree in 2009 followed by a six months employment at Dept. of Applied Physics, and how he started his PhD degree on January 1, 2010, supervised by Julie Gold. Today, Patric’s research has moved towards the generation of defined environments on the cellular length scale, using microfluidics and microtechnology.
“Cell microenvironments are the main driving force in cellular fate processes and phenotype expression in vivo. In order to mimic specific stem cell niches, and study cellular responses under those conditions in detail, we need the ability to create and control cell microenvironments in vitro. This includes the capability to modify surface properties and liquid composition in cell culture systems.“
“It is fascinating that the body is doing all this automatically, but still it is so difficult to study even simple processes in the lab. Most of us are born with two legs and two arms and there were not hundreds of researches in the body telling the cells what to do. The body was taking care of that by creating an astonishing complex and well controlled environment. The cells we are working with have everything inside them – we just need to find a way to tell them what to do.”
Neurons migrating out from a primary rat neurosphere in a microfluidic system
To gain a better understanding of microenvironments, Patric and master student Elin Bernson have developed a microfluidic platform that allows the formation of soluble gradients. This platform enables experiments on directed cell migration, and will help to get a better understanding of its underlying cell biological processes.
Microfluidic setup with a gradient generator chip connected.
What strikes me the most by Patric’ story telling is the process of his projects, and how Patric and Elin have gained a whole new set of knowledge out of, basically, a blank sheet of paper.
“I am positive about the progress in my different projects, we will hopefully answer most of our questions, but those answers will also give rise to a number of new questions. We have, literally, gone from very limited knowledge about this type of in vitro studies of microenvironments to developing the capability to modify surface properties and liquid compositions in cell culture systems – including the ability to study cellular fate process, which we were not able to study before in the group. “
Gradient: Comsol simulation data of a microfluidic gradient generator.
Besides Patric’s role as a supervisor he is also involved in teaching, mainly in biomaterials and tissue engineering. When I ask Patric what motivates him the most, Patric expresses a dedicated commitment to learning, but points out an even stronger commitment to sharing his knowledge to others.
“No matter the level or the subject of teaching, I think the fascination of teaching is to see the development of each individual, to see how their eyes light up when they start to understand something they did not know before. I believe by sharing my knowledge to others, I will get something back in return, which often is very true – the students will ask questions that I have never thought about. This in turn contributes to me with new perspectives.
“I believe the importance in learning, as in teaching, is the level of curiosity within each individual. Hence, by using your curiosity as the primary driving force to achieve or accomplish your goals, you can be as successful as you wish as long the inner curiosity is kept alive. I have found a strong interest in my area of research, which changed my course in life. Things will change, but as long as you are curious and passionate about what you are doing, everything will work out.”
I think, with those words said, many of us can relate to Patric’s concluding words of the importance of curiosity.
08 mars 2012
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