University of Konstanz

21 February 2019

Ran Sing Saw, a Pharmacy student took the opportunity to undertake a three-month research project at the University of Konstanz in southern Germany. Read more about her research experiences and outdoor pursuits on the shores of lake Constance.

Ran Sing Saw, Pharmacy

Came and went was another best summer ever! I was in Konstanz, a small German city bordering Switzerland and surrounded by the Lake Constance. For 12 weeks, I undertook a research study in the Chemistry Department of Universität Konstanz. I was working on identifying potential inhibitors of virulence-related enzymes from algal extracts, which would be promising as alternative antibiotics that are less likely to promote the development of resistance. I have had the opportunity to experience various aspects of the project, such as the preparation of competent BL21 cells, cell transformation, recombinant enzyme expression, running SDS-gel electrophoresis and high performance liquid chromatography. Through the screening assays with specially designed fluorescent probes, we have identified several active fractions which possess high capacity to become new anti-infective drugs. 

During these three months, I have learned so much about the ways to conduct research, various scientific techniques, and proper recording of the research progress. I got to learn about the day-to-day working in the lab that I would otherwise not have the chance to get to know before my final year. Persistence is essential in research; It is something that I have always heard about, yet still hit me hard when I experienced it first-hand. There were many times when my experiments did not work out and I would have to identify the problem and repeat them again and maybe again. Working alongside PhD students, I got a glimpse into how it is like for a postgraduate study. I enjoyed my lab work and was very grateful to be invited to apply for a PhD position in the research group. Talking to other researchers and students has also made me become more aware of the opportunities around for my further education. 


For me, Konstanz was the perfect destination for my summer abroad as I got to enjoy a lot of outdoor activities. Lake Constance, or Bodensee, is truly beautiful. I had enjoyed swimming, stand up paddle boarding and trying out windsurfing in the lake. I also got myself a second-hand bike which took me around the lake on cycling trips. I was very fortunate to find a host who was willing to accommodate me for a working holiday at their tipi campsite even if it was just for a weekend. It was amazing to experience a different way of living in the countryside and I have had fun helping my host in their mini restaurant and farm. Putting the little adventures aside, I am so grateful to have made a few good friends during my stay in Konstanz – cooking, going out and have fun together. Everyone has something to teach or share; I have learned so much from the people that I met and it certainly changed the way I see and think about certain things, and above all, become more open-minded to other cultures, ideas and opinions. 



While one might expect that there will be plenty of language practice while staying abroad, I found myself speaking in English most of the time, both in the lab as well as with my friends outside of work. But I want to improve my German! So, in addition to trying to learn a few more phrases from colleagues and friends, I found myself tandem partners. It was still as challenging as my listening skill was too bad and we would find ourselves irreversibly switched to speaking in English. I got a breakthrough when I began my tandem with a German who claims that he doesn’t speak English, and his Mandarin Chinese, of which we have our language exchange, happens to be no better than my German. To date, we continue our tandem session online, allowing me to gladly struggle and learn through an hour of strictly German-only conversation. Furthermore, I was slightly forced by circumstance but mostly encouraged by the people to converse in German when I had my working holiday. I then boldly took a windsurfing course instructed in German. With my limited aka end-of-A1-level knowledge of the language, I thought it was a miracle that I survived those weekends and I have had a good time! 

To me, summer is for learning, experiencing, growing, and having fun. A summer abroad? Go for it! It has opened up a world of opportunities for me – I could do something that I find interesting anywhere and everywhere, instead of confining my search in London or in the UK. As always, Google has been a great friend. Specifically, for Germany, German Academic Exchange Service, or DAAD, has a listing of scholarships on their website. Or simply contact a research group somewhere you would love to gain research experience and spend you summer at. With careful planning and a carelessly positive attitude, summer is going to be amazing!