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FIGON PhD student competition – Bas Goulooze

“Seven minutes and maybe a few seconds. But don’t even think about taking more than ten seconds extra,” the moderator emphasized as he pointed towards the large countdown timer on stage. It was clear: timing was going to be crucial for my presentation at the PhD student competition of the FIGON Dutch Medicine Days.

If you would enter our office in the LMUY building, the first thing you would notice are two big awards on the wall. They are the FIGON PhD student competition awards won by my (former) LACDR colleagues Jantine Brussee (second prize in 2016) and Rob van Wijk (first prize in 2018). And even in 2017, LACDR’s Natalia Ortiz Zacarias brought home the first prize. So when I heard that I would be representing the LACDR for the competition in 2019, I knew I had some big shoes to fill.

I had recently finished a project where we used simulations with ‘virtual children’ to explore better dosing strategies for the pain killer morphine in young children after surgery. Amongst other things, we found that different children require different morphine concentration in their blood before they are comfortable after surgery. This was an important finding that underlines the need for personalised pain treatment! We picked this work to present at the competition, hoping that the jury would also find this work interesting.

The FIGON Dutch Medicines Days moved to Leiden this year and were held in the beautiful Stadsgehoorzaal. As a long-time Leiden resident, I had visited the Stadsgehoorzaal before, but I never imagined that I would be presenting my PhD research there.

When my name was called, I walked to the middle of the stage. As soon as I started talking, the timer counted down from seven minutes. After talking about the importance of pain research in children and showing the results of our work with ‘virtual children’, I arrived at my final slide: what do our results mean for real children? I quickly glanced at the countdown timer: 1 minute and 30 seconds. “Good,” I thought, “I have some extra time left.”

I used the extra time to discuss more extensively why we think that we observed that some children did not seem to respond to morphine at all. I saw that I have 10 second left, and took this time to thank my co-authors and the audience for their attention, making sure that my final ‘thank you’ coincides with the moment that the countdown timer reaches 00:00. The moderator of the session seemed satisfied.

But the opinion of the three-person jury is what matters for the prize. As they deliberated on their decision, the poster prizes were announced. The LACDR did really well, winning the poster prize in two categories with posters by Natalia Ortiz Zacarias and Huub Sijben! While clapping for my colleagues, I almost forgot that the jury was still backstage picking the winners of the PhD competition. As the jury came to the stage, the tension returned, only to be replaced by excitement when it was announced that I won the first prize of the FIGON PhD student competition.

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