Student awarded Ph.D. at PUCRS and at University of Groningen

In Netherlands, Paula Feltes awarded first double degree in Graduate Program in Biomedical Gerontology

03/12/2018 - 10h49

A dream come true: a degree from the Dutch institution

Since she was little, Paula Kopschina Feltes used to say that she wanted to be a Ph.D. before she turned 30. In Jul 2018, at the age of 29, she defended her doctorate through a joint agreement at the University Medical Center Groningen, Netherlands, and was awarded with the degree in a solemn ceremony. Feltes earned a degree in Pharmacy from the School of Health Sciences of PUCRS in 2011, and is now the first student to complete the double degree of School of Medicine’s Graduate Program in Biomedical Gerontology  in an international institution, as she is about to begin a career overseas.

In four years, she completed two PhDs. For two and a half years, she conducted experiments at the University of Groningen, known for producing independent researchers. She spent another one and a half years at PUCRS. The dissertation entitled The two sides of the coin of psychosocial stress: evaluation by positron emission tomography, looked at the association between psychosocial stress, neuroinflammation, brain metabolism and depressive behavior. The opportunity came with the international collaboration program Abel Tasman Talent Program Scholarship.

The requirements for a PhD in the Netherlands are stricter: students have to work on four experimental projects, two of which must be published in relevant journals. “I was the first student to be awarded with the double degree in the Department of Nuclear Medicine of the University Medical Center Groningen. I believe I have opened the doors and beaten the challenges and this will be very good to the next students who take the same path I did. I hope I have made a contribution to the Dutch institution and to the department of Biomedical Gerontology of PUCRS”, says she.

International career

2018_11_21-paula_feltes3Paula has been hired as a clinical projects manager at the same department she worked while she was working on her PhD in the Netherlands. She coordinates academic and clinical studies for pharmaceutical industries that wish to try out new medications / radiopharmaceuticals. “I’ll be the contact person for researchers as I will ensure the minimum quality requirements and optimization in data management”, says she. She also provides assistance to researchers and advises students.

Her professional career has been anything but linear. While she was working on her undergraduate degree, in the third semester, she worked as an undergraduate researcher. “That was how I came in contact with radiopharmacy. I’m very thankful for the experiences I had at PUCRS, as the institution has always stood out in terms of infrastructure, entrepreneurship, quality of teaching and dedication to research.”

She worked in industries from 2011 to 2013, in the Grupo Boticário trainee program, in São José dos Pinhais, with an eye to quality assurance and control of cosmetic products. She ranked #1 in the selection process. After that “hiatus”, she returned to academia in order to contribute to research, not necessarily to become a teacher. “I like to develop new diagnostic tools and medication treatments for the population. Whenever there are opportunities to collaborate with society and challenges to develop new products, I will be very happy professionally”, adds she.

The double degree overseas has helped her plan her studies, conduct and analyze behavioral experiments, synthesis of radiopharmaceuticals, conduct advanced statistics analyses and positron emission tomographies. “That was when I grew a lot in professional terms. As an independent researcher, I had the total freedom to think up projects, develop them as efficiently as I could and analyze data autonomously. These things, combined with industry growth, have been very important for my current job”, adds she.

Life in the Netherlands

Feltes finishes Pharmacy program in 2011

Feltes finishes Pharmacy program in 2011

Before Paula Feltes worked on her PhD at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands was not an option to study, work or even travel. When she visited the city, she fell in love with the quality of life, security, people’s honesty and loyalty as well as culture. It was easy and quick to adapt. As for the language, her reading and listening skills are good. She is developing her speaking at the institution she works for.

“The fact that I could step outside of my house without being worried about security has influenced my decision. The part I never get used to is when I realize I am away from my family and friends. This is something that makes us more humble since we can see that life goes on, although we are not there with them”, concludes she.

Today, PUCRS has 14 students working on their PhDs as a double degree in 13 universities in France, Portugal, Spain and Italy and the Schools of Communications, Arts and Design – Famecos, Humanities, Sciences, Law  and Technology. Since 2009, eight students, from Brazil and overseas, have earned double degrees. “Our institution is making every effort to make it grow. The idea is to use the Capes/Print to have more projects like this”, says the Dean of Graduate Programs, Dr Christian Kristensen.


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