A summer full of research

20 Sept 2019

Intensive theory combined with lots of practical experience: that’s the Summer School concept in a nutshell. This year, the Department of Medicine launched its first Medical Research Summer School—to the great delight of students and lecturers.

After they finish their exams, most students head off for a vacation. At first glance, Jonathan from Hong Kong was no exception; he boarded a plane and flew to Munich. He and fellow students from around the world, however, were embarking on a rather different adventure: one whole month exploring all the different aspects of medicine in the Medical Research Summer School (MedR) at LMU.

Biomechanics, forensics, data science— students of medicine can potentially branch out in a great number of directions. But very few students are aware of their options whilst completing their degree; the focus on hospital medicine is simply too strong. Lydia Schön from the Department of Medicine is keenly aware of this fact. She spent a whole year organizing the Summer School. “We want to give students the chance to plan a future based on their interests and passions,” she explains. “But obviously they first have to find out what interests them!” For this reason, she wanted to enable MedR students to test the waters in a range of subject areas that don’t normally appear on the curriculum. Jonathan and Wilson are students at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Photo: Laurent Soussana

It was this prospect—gaining new experiences—that attracted Jonathan to the Summer School. “Back home at my university, medicine is very theoretical and regimented,” he explains. Hence he’s always looking for ways to expand his medical horizons. Which he did here with success— having gained first insights into forensics, he’s now contemplating exchanging his stethoscope for a lab coat.


Marta Diepenbroek, a research scientist at LMU, whisked the students away to the world of forensic medicine by setting the budding doctors a forensic challenge: what evidence could they find on a torn T-shirt? Was it part of a crime scene? Not an easy task—and one which most students would only ever have encountered on television. Nonetheless, they accepted the challenge with great enthusiasm and began their investigations. And Diepenbroek had just as much fun as the students themselves: “The Summer School was probably the most exciting part of my teaching career!”

In her opinion, the program epitomizes the academic and scientific approach. “We had lively discussions, lots of questions, and lots of sharing ideas. I gained numerous insights into research from other specialist fields and countries.” International exchange is one of the declared aims of the MedR. Many of the Summer School students came from partner universities, and are considering completing part of their degree at LMU. Accordingly, they made the most of their time at LMU by exploring Munich and learning more about the history of the city. Summer School Spotlight on Medical Ethics

Besides working in the lab, participants at the Summer School also visited museums and the Dachau concentration camp memorial site. This visit was highly relevant to medical students, explains Lydia Schön. “The story of the Third Reich is also a story of misdirected medicine. I thought it was very important that the Summer School should focus on ethics in medicine.”

It was this mix of subjects that resonated so well with Jonathan and the other Summer School participants. “The positive feedback has reinforced me and my team in our intention to repeat the Medical Research Summer School again next year,” Schön says. Which leaves only one question— don’t the students miss having a vacation when they spend the summer in the LMU laboratories? “Definitely not!” says Jonathan. “Vacations for me are about discovering new things. So I couldn’t have had a better vacation!“

More information about the Medical Research Summer School is available here.

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