Frontiers in Translational Medicine: an overview

It is the second course in the Master’s Programme in Biomedicine and considered one of its most challenging. This is primarily because it consists of a blizzard of knowledge falling on you in a short period of time. Luckily, it’s quite valuable information and you will come out of this course a worldlier, more enlightened individual. 😉 You’ll be able to impress your dinner party guests if the topics of atherosclerosis, adjuvant in vaccines or animal models of depression ever come up (and surely they will!). Although those who have a background in biomedicine may be familiar with the material, those of us who have done a specialized undergraduate may be visiting some of these subjects for the first time. Thus, the course provides an opportunity to catch up on topics as diverse as Tools in Molecular Medicine, Inflammation, Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer and Infection. Here are three things you can expect from this course:

You will become inflammation-savvy

Inflammation is the central theme of this course. It links all the topics in a tidy loop. I cannot emphasize how central it is. If you spend a whole day without hearing the word inflammation – then it’s probably a Sunday. Every topic you cover will mention inflammation as well as immunology in general: from atherosclerosis to schizophrenia. Our class ranges from people who have done their thesis on some component of the immune system, to some who have never taken a class in immunology. I fall somewhere in the middle of these two poles, and so far I have done fine. One of the first topics covered is inflammation. These classes and the recommended textbooks (a lifesaver) are sufficient to become inflammation-savvy.

You will learn and learn and learn some more

The first part of the course: Tools in Molecular Medicine, Inflammation, Cardiovascular Disease and Neuroscience, is made up of around 60 lectures. These lead directly to the first exam. Again, there’s a lot of information. Snowbound! Within each topic, lectures will cover a diverse range of subjects from epidemiology to molecular mechanisms or clinical manifestations. In addition, each lecturer will spend some time presenting his or her own research. This is one highlight of the course, as it will allow you to find out what kinds of projects are ongoing at Karolinska Institute. Another highlight for me was being introduced to actual patients in the more clinical lectures. During the neuroscience section of the course, our teacher invited some of his patients to come talk to us about their diagnoses, their symptoms and their day-to-day life. It was a vivid reminder of the heterogeneity of disorders and the individuality of those suffering from them.

You will talk about The Journal Club (1st rule and 2nd rule)

For every section of the course, you will be provided with a scientific article to read, analyse and discuss to pieces within small groups in your class. Thus, the name: The Journal Club. It will allow you to go over what was learned in class whilst being able to practice your analytical skills (because in all honesty, a lot of those articles are flawed, which is what makes the discussion all the more interesting). This potentially lively activity, along with wet and dry practicals in the cancer and infection sections respectively, will furnish you with an agreeable break from the many hours spent passively listening to lectures.

Also good to know: the schedule might not be as well planned out as you would like. All the deadlines may come up at the same time. And that time, unfortunately, may be a week before your exam. Therefore, make the most out of your early days off – even though I know too well these are prime ‘open a bank account’, ‘do laundry’ or ‘get a Swedish ID’ days. You won’t regret it.

Julbord (Swedish Christmas dinner) at IKEA with the class. Those who study together, buffet together.
Julbord (Swedish Christmas dinner) at IKEA with the class. Those who study together, buffet together.

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