Johanna Ganssauge

Country: Germany
Sector: Higher Education
Job title: PhD student
Subject of study: Medical Sciences
Year of graduation: 2020
Type/Level of study: Undergraduate

Current Employer/Organisation Name

University of Exeter

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

I started my PhD at the Living Systems Institute (LSI) in Exeter in October of 2021. I use in vitro models to study the mechanisms driving motor neuron degeneration in ALS. The previous year, I took the online MSc in Genomic Medicine (also based in Exeter). I graduated from the BSc Medical Sciences course in 2020.

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?

I discovered my love for research during the Professional Training Year (PTY) of my MedSci course. During that year, I learned to differentiate human stem cells into motor neurons and how they are used to study neurodegenerative diseases. I am now a PhD student within the same group. I love my research topic, as well as working in an interdisciplinary institute surrounded by people passionate about their fields.

Please tell us if you were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?

I was a member of the MedSci Society as well as German Society during my undergrad.

Were you part of the Exeter Student Ambassador Scheme at any point during your studies?


What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?

The Fundamentals and Principles of Research modules (1st and 2nd year respectively) helped us build valuable skills in research design, critical thinking, and writing – skills that are crucial for a career in research. My biggest personal highlight, however, was the PTY – this really sparked my interest in academia and gave me the confidence to apply for a PhD!

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

The close-knit community of St. Luke’s/ CMH made it really easy to get to know fellow students and our lecturers. Furthermore, our teaching was always closely related to the cutting-edge research going on within the department.

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?

Excellent facilities and the close association between teaching and research. Also, I enjoy living in such a beautiful part of the country.

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

Aside from the laboratory skills gained during the final year project and my PTY, the large self-directed component of MedSci was very valuable. Through it, I developed discipline, critical thinking, and research skills, which build the foundation of a career in science.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

Do a PTY! I was very undecided and made a rather last-minute switch onto the pathway. I’m so glad that I did – I gained many crucial laboratory skills, made valuable connections, and crucially, I gained to confidence to pursue a career in research. Academia can seem a little scary, but there are so many great opportunities to become involved, e.g. summer research placements or a PTY. Not only will these experiences massively help during your final year research project, but they will help you stand out when applying for PhDs or other research positions after graduation.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to continue my research into the mechanisms driving neurodegeneration in ALS.


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