Sophie Fisher-Holzhausen reports from the NORBIS public sector internship program
As a participant in the NORBIS public sector internship program in 2022, I worked at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) in Oslo. The financial support from NORBIS allowed me to take a temporary leave from my PhD work at the University of Bergen and focus entirely on the work at NIPH.
During my stay, I was associated with the Department for Chemical Toxicology. Here, people use experimental and computational methods to investigate the safety of chemical compounds for human health. An essential part of their work is assisting institutes such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Norwegian Food Safety Authority in hazard and risk assessments of chemicals.
Modelling and simulation are increasingly recognised as valuable tools for such assessments. They can, for example, be applied to determine exposure limits. In this light, we were working on a physiologically based toxicokinetic model of acrylamide – a chemical compound most people regularly come in contact with since it is found in toasted bread, chips, and coffee. This physiologically based toxicokinetic model we developed allows us to systematically study the absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion of acrylamide in humans. Overall such a model can boost our understanding of the interactions of acrylamide in our bodies.
For me, this internship was a very positive experience. My main contact person, Marcin Wojewodzic, ensured my start was smooth. On my first day, everything, from a dedicated workplace to bicycle parking, was organised, which made me feel very welcome and allowed me to start working on our modelling project immediately. Furthermore, I enjoyed working on this modelling project and experienced the collaborative work with the other group members as productive and inspiring. At the end of my stay, I presented my work in a department seminar and was positively overwhelmed by the number of questions asked and the great interest in my work.
For me personally, it was valuable to take a break from my PhD work because it allowed me to change my perspective and reevaluate my goals. Furthermore, with this internship, I expanded my professional network as well as my skill set, which was extremely helpful for me when looking for a new position after my PhD.
In summary, I am grateful for the opportunity that has been provided to me by the NORBIS public sector internship programme.