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Internship at the Jožef-Stefan-Institute in Ljubljana, Slovenia

The Jožef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana, Slovenia is a well-established research institute in Europe with ~ 900 employees. It was founded in 1949 with the aim to acquire and spread knowledge in the fields of natural sciences, life sciences and engineering. The headquarters of the institute are in the city center of Ljubljana. The Department of Environmental Sciences as well as nuclear research groups are located outside the city at the Reactor Center.

Jožef Stefan Institute, Reactor Center, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Duties as an intern

Agneta Annika Runkel joined the Jožef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana, Slovenia for a three months' internship during which she was trained at the Triple Quadrupole Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS). She participated in the development of a method for multi-elemental analysis of hair samples with the ICP-MS method. Her task was to prepare hair samples from Slovenian participants from a wider European biomonitoring survey (CROME-LIFE+, 2013-2016) and analyze them for multiple elements of interest.

The Cross Mediterranean Environment and Health Network aims at detecting the health risks resulting from the exposure of a population to environmental contamination. To achieve that 650 Slovenian mother-child pairs were sampled in a widespread project and samples from urine, hair and blood were collected. Hair samples were digested in an UltraWave microwave digestion system and prepared for multi-elemental analysis with several techniques such as ICP-MS and a Direct Mercury Analyzer.

The results will be published in the official report of the CROME-LIFE+, 2013-2016 biomonitoring program.

Work experience and reflections

During her work at the institute Agneta Annika Runkel was trained to work in a research laboratory doing the preparation and analysis of samples. Overall, she made very good experiences during her time there. In research it is very essential to learn how to handle difficult instruments such as the ICP-MS. Being able to work independently in the lab and to work independently with the ICP-MS were very useful qualifications she gained. Furthermore, working in a research team provided good insights into the daily life inside a research institute. Agneta Annika Runkel learned how to schedule things, communicate with other scientists, avoid conflicts (especially over instrument schedules) and achieve a good team dynamic.

All in all, she learned a lot during these three months in Slovenia. This internship had a positive influence on her and expanded her own future career perspectives. Agneta Annika Runkel can recommend the Jožef Stefan Institute for internships in Environmental Sciences.

Text und Foto: Agneta Annika Runkel

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