For the last 3years, the Department of Biomedical Laboratory Science at NTNU has welcomed students from the Ohio State University, an initiative that has contributed to the acquisition of laboratory skills, intercultural learning and the development of new friendships for the participants.
Because the teaching and learning is different from our home university, the biggest outcome of my stay at NTNU in Trondheim is that I have changed the way of thinking of my profession
More than 5,000 students are pursuing studies in the Biological Sciences at The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus USA. Yet, only 10 students got through the eye of a needle and experienced this exchange opportunity with The Department of Biomedical Laboratory Science. What is unique with this exchange is that the students were exposed to extensive laboratory practice in the context of the classroom.
The clinical laboratory practice is important on your CV when applying for further opportunities within or outside academia
What was the biggest difference, academic and cultural, you experienced coming to NTNU in Trondheim?
It is the first time the students are in Norway and Trondheim, and for some of them, also the first-time outside USA. Students agreed they found the Norwegian culture to be genuine and Norwegians were generally perceived to be kind, caring and trusting. During their stay, two students lost their phones and got them back (!) and this made a profound impression on them as it is a reflection of the trust in the society! The students also commented that the general trust in the society could also be seen in the institutions and work habits/ethics.
The academic system is also culturally different with more emphasis on learning and less focus on grades. In general the feeling was that there was less competition and more importance given to the learning process and how to acquire and solidify new knowledge. The classes at their home institution are generally much larger, so the learning process is different and feel less personalized.
During their course at NTNU, the students have been exposed to medical laboratory science including the use of next generation sequencing in medical genetics. The strategies involving clinical use of genetic testing and in general the clinical practices are quite different when compared between Norway and the US. Also, to be able to discuss clinical cases from an ethical point of view was an enlightening learning experience for these students. It was a general consensus among them that bioethics should be built into their curriculum.
I met a group of students full of energy and happy with what they had experienced the last weeks.
We were very well welcomed by staff and students! We are not used to discussions and learning without any right or wrong, this form for learning has been extremely useful. It’s been a balance with working individually and in a group, made us learn more from each other
What is distinctive about this cooperation?
We do not have the same level of practical laboratory skills training at our university
OSU undergraduate students (2nd and 3rd year) pursuing a degree in the biological Sciences are part of a study program at IBF/NTNU focused on medical laboratory technologies, a strength and expertise at IBF/NTNU. In addition, the Genomics Core Facility at NTNU and the Department of Medical Genetics at St. Olavs’ hospital contribute to this study program by introducing the students to large-scale genomic sequencing strategies in a clinical setting with emphasis on the technology and its application and but also on bioethics in the field of health sciences.
These goals were achieved through a variety of course work, including but not limited to, hands-on work at the bench, visit of medical facilities and direct interaction with healthcare professionals. The program was divided into three modules at NTNU Trondheim: fundamentals of laboratory techniques, evaluation of the methods of analysis and an introduction to genome sequencing in clinical practice with a particular focus on the practical and ethical challenges arising from the use of this technique in the medical diagnosis of patients. The fourth module at NTNU Ålesund deals with “hands-on” sequencing and is concerned with metagenomics and its application to assess the quality of water samples.
TRONDBUSS, a bilateral cooperation
NTNU students enrolled in the Biomedical Laboratory Science program (BLS) at NTNU take part in a three-month research project in various laboratories at OSU from March to June. The objective here is to provide intellectual and practical training in the Sciences with a focus on basic research in a laboratory setting. NTNU students are expected to carry out experiments at the bench and disseminate their results in writing and orally. Prof. Patrice Hamel states that the NTNU students coming to OSU are extremely well regarded because of their high quality training and invaluable participation to the research enterprise at his institution.
How to make a better world?
This exchange initiative gives the students a unique opportunity to widen their horizon with regards to academic knowledge but also culture. An immediate and tangible impact is how this experience has shaped the vision of their world and their academic field. They participate in a program that teaches them a new perspective on learning both from academic standpoint, but also from a human living in a society. Students experience similarities and differences in ways of thinking, both academically and socially. In addition, they acquire new knowledge and experience in a field of technology they have not encountered before.
During the last years the Program has welcomed 29 American students who have stayed with host families or at the SiT. A program including social activities was also offered so that the participants can taste a slice of Norwegian life and meet other NTNU students during their time in Norway.
The American students say it is hard to get a job directly after an undergraduate degree, you must go to graduate school, usually for 4-6 years or medical school. These students will go in different directions after their studies, some would like to go to Medical school, some to Pharmacy and others to genetic counselling at a hospital. They are eager to come back to Trondheim and are thankful for this unique opportunity.
Essential for this exchange is the enthusiasm to drive the program and the close cooperation between both universities. This requires that someone is willing to take on this job and make sure all the practicalities are in place (From organizing housing to arranging the details of the academic content of the class).
The main drivers and enthusiasts who started this exchange program are Professor Patrice Hamel from Department of Molecular Genetics at The Ohio State and Associate professor Kristin Solum Steinsbekk at IBF at NTNU in Trondheim.
How did it all start?
The exchange cooperation started at a furniture shop in Ohio “Pier 1”. Patrice met a French woman whose dream was to move to Norway. This person became his friend, moved into Kristin’s rental apartment and put them in touch with each other as she realized they had a lot in common. Patrice and Kristin hit it off and started working on the Exchange Program and named it “TRONDBUSS” (TRONDheim and ColumBUS +S for BUSS in Norwegian), which has now been running since 2013.
The Program has such a high value for us and we really appreciate the cooperation with Kristin, her students and the Department
TRONDBUSS (TRONDheim, ColumBUS and BUSS in Norwegian) is a US-Norway initiative for bilateral student mobility between the department of Biomedical Laboratory Science (IBF) at NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, TRONDheim, Norway) and the Department of Molecular Genetics at OSU (ColumBUS, Ohio). Dr. Patrice Hamel (OSU) and Dr. Kristin Solum Steinsbekk (NTNU) act as coordinators of the TRONDBUSS program. TRONDBUSS led to a formalized agreement between the two participating institutions and a MOU was signed in 2017 to officialize the partnership.