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Marshall Plan Scholarship for bachelor student

IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems became a partner of the Marshall Plan Scholarship Programme, which offers funding for academic exchanges with top US universities, in 2008. Sarah Schwarz is one of more than 100 IMC Krems students who have received one of the research scholarships since then. From the 2022/23 academic year, the scholarship programme will be extended to include other IMC degree programmes.

Sarah Schwarz is currently studying on IMC Krems’ Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology bachelor programme. She is one of more than 100 IMC Krems students who have received one of the research scholarships since then. From the 2022/23 academic year, the scholarship programme will be extended to include other IMC degree programmes.

Every year, eight IMC Krems students are nominated for science and life sciences scholarships under the Marshall Plan programme, and spend time carrying out research at some of America’s leading universities. Six students from the Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology degree programme and two Applied Chemistry students are currently in the USA thanks to Marshall Plan Scholarships. Starting in 2022/23, students on the Informatics, Digital Business Information and Transformation, Management, and Management of Health Institutions degree programmes will also be able to apply for scholarships, provided their research topic qualifies for inclusion in the science category.

Outstanding bachelor student

Sarah Schwarz is currently studying on IMC Krems’ Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology bachelor programme. She feels right at home at the university – in her view, one of the main reasons is because IMC Krems students are much more than just a number: “The lecturers know all the students’ names and I think that says a lot about the level of quality at the university. It promotes social and also interpersonal exchange, on the part of the teaching staff as well as the students. One of the most attractive elements is that it enables you to realise your personal potential and develop individual interests with an eye on possible future career options – and internships at institutes abroad, where you can demonstrate the skills and expertise you have developed during your studies, are a major part of this.” 
Sarah has a list of outstanding achievements to her name on the bachelor programme, and she is also involved in a research project. “The aim of the project is to isolate membrane proteins from extracellular vesicles and then identify them using mass spectrometry. It’s an exciting initiative and the ultimate goal is to apply the measurement findings in order to develop alternative treatment approaches for osteoarthritis,” she explains. 

Marshall Plan Scholarship for Harvard

As part of her bachelor degree, Sarah completed an internship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital in Boston, Massachusetts (USA). She was awarded a Marshall Plan Scholarship for the internship, making her one of more than 100 IMC Krems students who have received a scholarship from the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation
Sarah worked at the Haigis laboratory, which is investigating an oncogene called KRAS. “Without a doubt, KRAS is the biggest obstacle to applying precision medicine in cancer treatment. This oncogene is mutated in more than 15% of all cancers. The incidence of mutation is very high in pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and bowel cancer – the three biggest killers of all the different forms of cancer,” Schwarz says, highlighting the potential benefits of the research. At the moment, the role that KRAS plays in the development of certain types of cancer, and how it can be treated effectively with targeted therapies, is not entirely clear. “The project I was involved in was aimed at investigating why the KRAS oncogene is frequently mutated only in the forms of cancer I mentioned earlier, while hardly any mutation can be found in other types of tumour. We tried to find out how organs where there is a very low incidence of mutated KRAS protect themselves against these mutations.” The findings generated by this project could in turn feed into new treatment approaches.

Return on the cards

The research placement in Boston wasn’t just a highlight for the young biotechnology student on a personal level. “I thought long and hard about the reputation of Harvard Medical School. It consistently takes top spot in the university rankings, so I asked myself: what sets Harvard Medical School apart from the other universities? I came to the conclusion that it’s a totally unique experience for researchers – the demands and standards justify the university’s reputation. A readiness to test the limits is what drives researchers there to overcome boundaries while breaking new ground with their research activities.” What’s more, Schwarz found Boston to be a highly liveable city, with lots of young people, an engaging cultural scene, and typical American sports, including the city’s baseball team, the Boston Red Sox. Her main takeaway from the experience: “I had a wonderful time in Boston, and I learned a lot – from a professional and a personal point of view. Thanks to the great support I received from the institute, I gained valuable experience, met many friendly and interesting people, and got to explore quite a few different towns and cities. And all of that reinforced my desire to go back and spend a part of my research career there. I would like to thank everyone who made my stay possible, who supported me and made my time there so rewarding. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I go there.”

Positive assessment of education in Krems

Opinions in the USA on the basic training that IMC Krems students receive have been very positive across the board. “The response from the institute in Boston showed that the training we receive at IMC Krems stands out for its strong practical focus and high standards of professional excellence,” Schwarz confirms. “What makes the programme at IMC Krems so distinctive is the unbelievably wide range of topics, but also the depth it goes into – this was a great help during my research stay in Boston.” 
With this in mind, Sarah has some clear advice for any students hoping to enrol on IMC Krems’ Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology programme: “This degree is the best option for young people with an inquisitive mind who are highly motivated, who want to make a difference, but also find it important that the personal aspects aren’t forgotten.”
At the moment, Sarah Schwarz is completing her bachelor degree. Alongside her studies, she is again involved in research at IMC Krems – and she has big plans: “The plan is maybe to go back to Boston after graduating, work in the lab where I did my internship for a year or two, and then do another degree.” So hopefully, it’s on to a master’s degree at IMC Krems!

New focus areas

Every year, the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation awards scholarships to Austrian students, which enables them to spend time researching in the USA, and also promotes collaboration between the two countries. The scholarships are intended primarily for master and PhD students who have made outstanding academic achievements in the field of science. 

Markus Schweiger, Executive Director of the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation, is delighted with the long-standing collaboration with IMC Krems, which has given rise to numerous valuable partnerships: “IMC Krems and the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation have been working together closely since 2008 so that talented and dedicated young researchers can spend time in the USA. Until now, the cooperation has mainly covered biotechnology and chemistry, and more than 100 researchers have had the opportunity to carry out research in the United States. I’m very pleased to announce that from the coming academic year, we’ve decided to expand the range of degree programmes that qualify for the fellowship programme – to give you one example, we will be working with IMC Krems on the new focus area of digitalisation and innovation. I would like to thank everyone connected with the scholarship programme at IMC Krems for their trust and cooperation over the years.” 

Bachelor degree programme Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology

Master degree programme mediacal and pharmaceutical biotechnology