Interview Janine Spitzhüttl
Interview with Janine Spitzhüttl, a SGS-CLM member working on her PhD “Efficacy of cognitive and physical trainings in pediatric cancer survivors”
What is your research topic about?
Children and adolescents surviving cancer are faced with so called ‘late-effects’, which stem from the neurotoxic effects of successful cancer therapy and the disease itself. Even years after successful treatment this can lead to cognitive problems and those in turn affect people’s school performance, their interaction with peers, and can lead to a reduced quality of life.
In my PhD project, I want to understand the broad spectrum of cognitive late-effects by analysing behavioural data and brain images from these former patients. This allows me to compare how well they do in tests compared to healthy children, and I also examine whether I can link this to differences in brain structure and function. I am also working on an interventional study where we try to see whether physical exercise and computerized cognitive training can help to reduce these late effects.
Why did you choose to pursue a PhD? Was that always your dream?
No, I don`t think it was always my dream, but I do have a curiosity for the world and a ‘healthy appetite’ for reading books on many different topics. Besides that, I chose to make a PhD to learn skills in different domains, such as writing, communication, presenting, and organizing.
What are your plans after the completion of your PhD?
I could imagine doing a post-doc somewhere abroad after my PhD, but I could equally well imagine working in a children`s hospital. Actually, to be honest, combining both things would be great.
What is the nicest thing and what is the worst when doing a PhD?
The best thing is getting to know and learning from interesting people from all over the world.
The worst thing is that it can be a lonely affair sometimes. Days are spent alone in front of a computer, so you can end up having the feeling that your laptop is your best friend.
Do you have any advice you would like to give to future PhD students?
I would say that future PhD students shouldn’t underestimate how challenging it can be at times – it’s definitely not a walk in the park. It takes a lot of self-discipline, resilience, and stamina. Now for the upsides. What really helps is to develop a daily routine (e.g. work every day from nine to five), to make friends, and have a good time with the people in your lab. The guidance of your supervisor is very important, too. Therefore, I would recommend you meet your PhD supervisor on a regular basis. This way you can exchange ideas and build a good connection with her or him. And of course all these other little important things help: Eat well, do sports, look for a running partner, meditate, etc.
Where would you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
I would like to to see myself as a researcher in a field that really excites me, where I can learn and expand my skillset and do something meaningful to help people.