An interview with Michelle Fleermann

Michelle Fleermann from Germany follows a master’s degree in Applied Nanotechnology at Saxion University of Applied Sciences and plans to graduate in 2018. In this interview, Michelle shares her experiences, explaining why she decided to study in the Netherlands and started this study programme.

After finishing a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Saxion, she chose to apply for the Master in Applied Nanotechnology in 2016 mainly because it is a relatively new field that attracts her very much. She is highly interested in learning more about this discipline.

Why did she choose the Netherlands?

One of the reasons that Michelle chose to come to and study in the Netherlands is that she heard about the personal contact with the teachers, providing better coaching and guidance compared to her home country. She adds: “Class sizes are smaller, which makes me feel more comfortable”.

“I completed a Dutch bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Saxion and I am now specialising in nanotechnology since it’s a super interesting subject.” Nanotechnology is a relatively new field of research and technology, which Michelle is eager to explore further.

About the master programme Nanotechnology

Michelle especially enjoys the content of the programme, being of a multidisciplinary nature that covers chemistry, electrical and electronic engineering (EEE), physics and biology. “It is special because it’s one of the only few master programmes in this field that exists. It is also special because it is a fairly new discipline - there are always new and interesting topics to share with students.”

The Master in Applied Nanotechnology at Saxion is the only master of its kind in the Netherlands

Michelle’s experiences when she started

“I enrolled in the Dutch chemistry bachelor programme  and couldn’t speak Dutch. I had to take a full-time three-week course to learn it, which made me very nervous.” However, Michelle had the possibility to combine her first year and second year of her studies, since she was taught chemistry at a certain level in Germany before. She was able to skip many classes from the standard first year curriculum and was able to follow courses from the second year already. “I was very driven and had to sacrifice my social life. I chose studies over social life. Nevertheless, it’s really up to you what you prioritize.”

“I am also a researcher and teacher at Saxion, so when I started the master’s programme, it was a bit different”. Of course, she was less apprehensive about starting her master since she was familiar with the surroundings, the teachers and her old classmates. “I was taught by colleagues actually, so I felt comfortable from the start.”

The Dutch language

Michelle would like to say to her first-year self now to relax more about the language. For example, she wrote in Dutch, English and German during exams while being afraid that her point did not come across. “In the end, it’s all going to be okay!”

“In class, I understood teachers but students were talking very fast, which was hard. I lived with other Dutch students and I strongly advise international students to live with Dutch students to learn the language.”

“I actively looked for a room in a Dutch house and went for a viewing. At the end of it, I gave my phone number in Dutch. They instantly sensed that I really wanted it and they chose me. The drive counts a lot.” According to Michelle, Dutch people are very welcoming and helpful.

It is really the drive that counts!

Teaching and appreciation

Michelle did her minor at Saxion for a research group. It was during that time that she chose to become a teacher. “I went to Germany and taught as a lab assistant once a month. I really liked teaching so I wanted to continue with that. At first, I was a researcher only and then I asked if I could teach practical courses as well. Eventually, I became a teacher!”

The students really appreciate Michelle and enjoy that she is teaching them tricks in practical courses. “The most rewarding moment for me, is when students come up to me after class thanking me for it. I am also closer to their age group which makes it easier for them to approach me, but they still respect me as a teacher.”

Rewarding experience

The most rewarding experience for Michelle is probably a project that she aligned on her own during her first year of her master’s programme.

Michelle explains further: ‘When people would like to introduce new drugs to the market, they test it on animals (causing ethical problems) and on cell cultures. However, when the drugs are tested on humans, it is toxic. Besides, these types of studies are expensive and it takes up much time (10 years) to actually facilitate market entry. Thus, I am working on a project which is to use human (stem) cells to make a heart cell on a chip and use micro fluid tubes to test drugs. The chip is basically a substrate with lines in it where the cells will be placed in; the muscles will grow according to the line (muscle-like structure). It is an ongoing project, I am working on it partly for it with my master’s thesis with students.”  


Final thoughts

Michelle’s favourite place to study is definitely the microscopy lab: “It’s small and quiet, I usually have the place to myself”. 

The only thing that Michelle would like to say to a student thinking about choosing Saxion is: do it! The master of Applied Nanotechnology at Saxion is the only master programme offered by a university of applied sciences in the Netherlands that is accredited and financed by the government.