Toxicology alumni Linda aspires to research immunotherapy

Name: Linda Steinacher
Degree: Master's in Toxicology (2020)
Current role: PhD student at Roche
Based: Basel, Switzerland

Alumna profile photo
Alumna Linda Steinacher Photo: Astra Zeneca

What is your background?

I obtained my Bachelor’s in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Basel. I decided to study pharmaceutical sciences because the programme was very interdisciplinary, aligning with my broader interest in life sciences, especially human health and health related safety. In addition, the degree allowed  many different career paths after the graduation.  

Upon completion of my Bachelor’s, I decided to move to Stockholm to pursue a Master’s in Toxicology at KI.  

I experienced full support from the KI staff during and after my studies....Looking back, going to KI and Sweden was probably the best choice that I could have made.  

Linda Steinacher, on her experience as a KI student

Why did you choose KI?

I discovered my interest for toxicology even before starting with my Bachelor’s degree. Initially, I wanted to continue my education in Basel, but after the university restructured the Master's programmes, I decided to embark on an entirely new journey and study abroad. 

When I was searching for suitable Master's programmes online, I came across KI. Since it is a top ranked medical university with a long established programme in toxicology, I decided to apply. I realized that it presents a great opportunity to gain more international experience and to step out of my comfort zone by trying something different and exciting.   

What career path have you taken following graduation?

First of all, my graduation year of 2020 was very different compared to the previous ones due to the ongoing pandemic. Faced with inevitable uncertainty of the situation, I started looking for job opportunities months before the graduation. That is how I found a position at Roche in Basel, where I worked as a postgraduate intern in the Pharmaceutical Research and Early Development department.  

From January 2021, I will continue as a PhD student focusing on immunotherapy and immuno-related adverse events.  

How do you remember your time at KI? 

KI has a very different type of teaching compared to my previous university.  

The strong emphasis on problem-based learning, a practical and collaborative way of learning by tackling diverse, real-world challenges is one of many examples. Instead of limiting the courses to teacher-centered teaching and learning every detail by heart, the focus was also on looking at the bigger picture and context of the problems. Furthermore, the programme was very focused on teaching us the scientific standards, e.g. where and how to look for relevant scientific sources and how to evaluate findings critically. Apart from providing us with a potent and multi-faceted scientific toolset, developing our soft skills also received a significant amount of attention. Group works, presentations and open discussions were a natural part of the courses.  

Another advantage of the programme was that apart from the toxicology courses, we also had enough time to engage in extracurricular activities, e.g. gaining work experience in research groups at KI.  

Last but not least, I experienced full support from the KI staff during and after my studies. For example, KI put us in touch with different master thesis supervisors who presented their work, which in turn allowed me to do my Master’s thesis at Astra Zeneca. 

There is not one best memory I can think of, but overall, I have many great memories looking back to my time in Sweden. In general, meeting so many amazing people, building friendships and sharing various adventures definitely influenced who I am today.   

How did you experience the transition to Sweden?

In the beginning, it was very scary to move to a new country and to completely step out of my comfort zone. Then, after joining the Swedish language course offered by KI in the first few days, I started to feel more comfortable with my choice. During the language course, even before the official start of the Master’s course, I made my first friends in Sweden. The course itself was a great opportunity to meet people outside of the Master’s programme, it created a more of a wholesome experience abroad and the possibility to exchange with diverse people studying different subjects.  

The group work during the courses also helped us students in getting closer to our classmates and forming true friendships. Looking back, going to KI and Sweden was probably the best choice that I could have made.  

How did your studies at KI help your future career?  

One of the ways KI influenced my current career path was by supporting me in getting in touch with AstraZeneca, the company at which I conducted my thesis. This opportunity definitely helped me in gaining more industrial experience and continuing my career in a similar field. In general, it was incredibly helpful that we were continuously encouraged to engage in ever-new, challenging experiences and develop ourselves further. KI also supported us in gaining experience in presenting our work, planning diverse research designs, being part of exhilarating discussions and interpreting research findings through a critical lens. All of these factors contributed to building key capabilities and creating more confidence in my own skills, which will be key for achieving my future aspirations.  

What are your future aspirations? 

My first step will be to complete my PhD. This will help me in further evolving my research skills and developing into a more experienced scientist. When it comes to long-term aspirations, the field that interest me the most is the one of personalized medicine. I believe that the future of health care lies within treating patients based on individual differences and needs. Especially from an adverse event point of view with regards to cancer therapy, I am very keen to understand what happens in different patients and why.  

That is why my goal is to have an impact in this area and to contribute to improving the world of health care. 

What is your advice to current students? 

Use your leisure time to do something besides studying, like finding a part time job or having other extracurricular activities that are offered by KI. Enjoy Sweden and the weather, at least during the summer. Moreover, create your network, be it with regards to friendships or your professional career. KI really supports students in that regard for example by organizing networking events, creating internship opportunities or having cross-industrial guest speakers throughout the courses. My advice is to make the most out of the presented opportunities and the truly extraordinary, international, environment KI offers.