Michael Sars-senteret


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A transformative experience at the Michael Sars Centre

After six months at the Centre, research interns Catharina Kolner and Célestine Allombert-Blaise are off to the next steps of their path as young scientists. With their dedication and enthusiasm, they have made invaluable contributions to their respective research projects.

Hikers on top of mountain
Célestine Allombert-Blaise, Catharina Kolner
Catharina in the laboratory
Marion Lebouvier
Group of volunteers at the aquarium
Melanie Burford
Célestine in the laboratory
Marion Lebouvier
Célestine and Eva Jablonka
Marion Lebouvier
Portrait of interns
Melanie Burford


Nurturing curiosity and confidence

As a third-year life sciences student from Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, Catharina decided to undertake a gap-year internship at the Centre. Captivated by the opportunity to engage in research within a vibrant and cooperative setting, Catharina contributed to projects in both the ctenophore facility and the laboratory, collaborating with Staff Engineer Alexandre Jan and Researcher Carine Le Goff in the Burkhardt Group. Her work focused on improving spawning in the animals and on conducting experiments to better characterize their nervous system.

This research Centre was everything that I dreamed of. I could work in the laboratory and I got to work with these amazing, beautiful animals. I have learned so much!
- Catharina Kolner

“[Catharina] was the first intern in our group to work both in the facility and the laboratory on two different projects, which could have been very challenging for her, but she was eager to learn as much as possible”, Carine explained.  For Catharina, the experience was crucial for developing transferable skills essential for her future studies and career progression. "Sars has helped me enormously with my confidence in working alone in the lab, and speaking English”, she said. “All the skills I learned here, I can use in my future internships.” 

From chemistry to biology

Originally from France and holding a degree in chemical engineering from the École Nationale de Chimie de Montpellier, Célestine was drawn to the Michael Sars Centre by her fascination with the overlap between chemistry and biology, as well as her deep love for science. Despite being relatively new to the field of biology, she immersed herself in the study of Ciona intestinalis larvae, guided by Marios Chatzigeorgiou and postdoc Oleg Tolstenkov.

“As I'm not doing biology studies, the most exciting scientific experience was to work with animals that were directly coming from the facility”, Célestine explained. Despite the challenges, she quickly became familiar with microscopy techniques, leveraging her analytical skills to uncover new insights into larval behavior patterns. “I was truly impressed by how quickly Célestine learned how to perform behavioral assays”, Marios said. “She also put her chemistry experience to good use by combining behavioral analysis with pharmacological perturbations.”

Embracing the local lifestyle

Beyond the laboratory, Célestine and Catharina enjoyed being a part of the vibrant community at the Centre. “I have had an amazing experience here. The Sars community is so welcoming, everyone gets along and gets included.” Catharina said. The many opportunities to explore Norwegian landscapes were also a high point of the two students’ stay, as they hiked around the city and chased northern lights. For Célestine, adopting the outdoorsy Norwegian way of life was particularly easy. “Having the mountains so close to the city was a perfect way of escaping the city”, she said. “Norway has the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen.”

For the future

Both students were deeply inspired by their experiences at the Centre. Building upon her experience as a chemist, Célestine will soon join a laboratory developing therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. For Catharina, her internship experience has convinced her to pursue a career as a researcher. "This research Centre was everything that I dreamed of. I could work in the laboratory and I got to work with these amazing, beautiful animals. I have learned so much!"