Monday, March 28

Lutronic – by Bart Sloeserwij and Wieger Tuininga

Lutronic is a well renowned manufacturer of medical equipment using laser-technology, boosting a #4 position in this sector globally. Their lasers are used for both medical as cosmetic procedures, including but not limited to tattoo, hair and scar removal, cosmetic and medical surgery. Through several presentations by amongst others, Dr. Jongmin Kim, who presented Lutronic’s global position and future innovation plans, and a charismatic Scotsman, who covered laser theory. This included fundamental principles of light, the properties of an ideal laser, which are its monochromaticity, phase and a parallel beam. Lastly, before going over Lutronic’s products, the importance of the wavelength was highlighted, as it determines penetration depth and absorption in different tissues. In the case of human tissue, the main absorbers are melanin, oxygen rich and poor blood, and water. By choosing the correct laser, different effects can be accomplished. A simple example with a red and green laser pointer: put the red laser on your finger and you can see red light coming through the side and opposite end of the finger, due to scattering effects and a lack of absorption. Using the green laser results in the complete opposite effect, as all light is absorbed. After an interesting tour through the device manufacturing floor, where engineers put together the different components of the respective model by hand, and through a room in which the devices were presented, it was time for lunch.

This was our first experience with the Korean company lunch, and I was positively surprised by both the quality and abundance of food served. This included a bowl of noodles, several rice and other dishes, which you could serve yourself, and several side dishes with a desert of the freshest and sweetest strawberries. Every meal was passionately prepared well-seasoned, though usually rather spicy for us Dutchies. Most of us were new to using chopsticks, which lead to hilarious struggles of man vs. food, as well as an easy conversational topic.

The last presentation focused on therapies Lutronic is developing or improving. For example a treatment for herniated discs that they are currently developing.
This company visit was a great start to two weeks of wonder, culture, exotic food and above all visits to impressively prestigious companies and universities. We would like to thank Dr. Jongmin Kim and his colleagues at Lutronic for having us!
Gyeongbokgung Palace – by Coryn Llamoza Carabali and Dimitra Witteveen Villagomez

On Monday 28 of March 2016, after a mind-blowing experience at Lutronic, we visited the Gyeonbokgung Palace. This palace is located in the northern side of the city. The majestic structure was built in 1395 by general Yi Seong-gye, which overthrew the Goryeo dynasty and founded a new one, called Joseon with him as a king. He considered Hanyang (now Seoul) as a suitable place according to the principles of Feng Shui as capital of the new dynasty and ordered to build Gyeonbokgung Palace and Jongmyo shrine.

The royal palace has 410,000 square meters with more than 500 buildings. A couple of relevant edifications inside the palace are Geunjeongjeon, Gyotaejeon, Jagyeongjeon, Gyeonghoeru, and Hyangwonjeong. Geunjeongjeon was the main hall in which the official ceremonies took place and daily reports were given to the king. Facing the inner courtyard, three paths are traced in granite; the one in the middle slightly elevated was where the monarch path see picture below. Jagyeongjeon and Gyotaejeon were rooms of the mother of the King and spouse of the King respectively.

Gyeonghoeru and Hyangwonjeong are lotus flower ponds; in the first one was where foreign dignitaries gathered and where special celebrations were held when good events occurred in the nation. After visiting the main rooms, we had the opportunity to walk around the gardens of the palace. Appreciating the ponds and view of the city in front of the palace and the view of the mountain at the back of the palace.

Tuesday March 29

Hanyang University – by Bram Schipper and Tjerk Vredebregt

Hanyang university was the first university we visited during our stay in South Korea. At first glance it was visible, that it was an university where a lot of money was being spent not only on research but on aesthetics as well. A beautiful statue of a roaring lion, which is fitting since a lion is the king of the jungle while Hanyang is the king of engineering in Korea. In comparison with our university, VU Universty Amsterdam, the campus was very large and unlike anything we’ve encountered on other universities in the Netherlands.

We were welcomed warmly and after a brief photo-moment, we continued into the museum of the university. We learned that Hanyang was Korea’s first engineering institute and what impact the university has had on Korea. By being the first engineering institute Hanyang opened a wide array of opportunities, nurtured many talented people and has therefore been proclaimed as the “Engine of Korea”. After this impressionable museum tour, we went ahead and took another picture.

Following this, we got introduction to the options for summer school at Hanyang, which offers a very appealing curriculum. Afterwards a tour of the campus and got to see what else this university has to offer, many sport facilities, research institutes (such as the one donated by Hyundai). Following this campus tour, we got some insight into the Biomedical Engineering curriculum. However, one major difference with our study, Medical Natural Sciences, is that ours lacks many practical courses until the master, while Biomedical Engineering at Hanyang offers a wide variety of projects in the bachelor, which is very helpful in preparation of an actual job. However, in Korea it is not common for students to get a Master’s degree, which could be one the reasons why the Bachelor is practical as well as theoretical. It was great to see what Hanyang has to offer and we are glad to have had this opportunity.
Ewha Womans University – by Koen Baas and Eric Rutjes

After visiting Hanyang University, we went to Ewha Womans University by subway. The building where we would meet with the guide for the campus tour was both remarkable and beautiful. So, it was not surprising that the main building is one of the well-known architectural highlights in Seoul. The campus was mainly underground and the middle formed a big stairway to provide direct access to the underground floors. Our guide directed us to a small information center where we were provided with some information about Ewha. After learning the history and what Ewha Womans University stands for, we got a tour through the campus ending at a spectacular viewpoint.

At the viewpoint, we met some of the Pharmacy Faculty students and they guided us to the brain institute located on the campus. During the walk, we had the opportunity to talk with the students and learn all about studying in Korea. On the top of the campus, the Brain Institute was located. When we entered, we had to undo our shoes which allowed us to enter the scanner-area. Here, we got interesting information about the brain-research done with MRI-scanners and the other research topics in the field of the brain.

We continued the tour outside, as we visited Ewha’s botanical garden. Unfortunately, it was too early in season, so most of the plants were yet not sprouted. However, the impression was there.
Afterwards, we went to the faculty building of the students. Here we met with more students with whom we would eat dinner later that night. A professor of the students told some more about the University and the pharmacy faculty in particular. To end the formal part at Ewha Womans University, one of the students played the gayageum, a traditional Korean instrument, for us. On top of that, we all received THE Ewha College of Pharmacy sweater in the typical Dutch color: orange! For which we all were very grateful!

To end the visit, the students took us to a restaurant near the campus. This restaurant turned out to be traditional with an ondol system. Therefore, we had to sit on the floor, which was a challenge for a lot of us since most of us are quite tall. We ate various Korean specialties like bibimbap and different types of korean pancakes accompanied by soju and makgeolli. We all had a great day at Ewha Womans University which we want to thank the professor and students very much for!

Wednesday March 30

DMZ Tour – by Yu Kong Lam and Leandra Mulder

The DMZ, which stands for DeMilitarized Zone, is an area around the border between North and South Korea where no fighting takes places even though soldiers are standing there face to face. We visited three spots, Dorasan Observatory, Freedom Bridge and the Joint Security Area (JSA).

The first spot was a river that divided the North and the South and parts of North Korea were visible if it had not been misty that day. At this point, a river from North Korea and the Hangang river from South Korea meet and flow to the sea. As the Hangang river flows through Seoul as well, which is not for away from this spot, this area is heavily monitored as well.

The second spot was the Bridge of Freedom, where a train rail running to the train stop at the border of South Korea was located which only the military boarded. A wall full of mementos was left behind by North Korean refugees for their families if they ever fled using the same route.

The last and probably the most intense stop was the last one at the JSA, which is the Joint Security Area. The jolly mood from before was replaced by a deadly silence the more we approached the actual border. Soldiers started coming into the bus to check our passports and the guns they carried just screamed no funny business or else you are in big trouble. To get to the JSA, we had to walk through a building two-by-two like we were in primary school. It is funny now to compare it with that but at the time it felt like a military drill. At the other side of the building were the infamous blue cabins built on the actual border. Behind the cabins stood a North Korean soldier, who according to the tour guide was named “Bob” (the tour guide was the only one capable of making jokes at this stage). Surprisingly, we were allowed inside one of the cabins as well to take pictures with the soldiers inside. We were even allowed to roam in the North Korean part of the cabin which was quite the experience. Smiling on a picture with a soldier whilst in North Korea must have been one of the most contradicting things I have ever done, knowing the conflict that was going on (missiles were fired by North Korea the day before).

Before leaving, we drove past the Bridge of No Return, which apparently everyone eagerly wanted a picture of. At this spot, prisoners were put to choose which side of Korea they wanted to go to after the war which was a choice made for life, because coming back meant being shot at. After this eventful adventure, everyone was so impressed that almost everybody fell asleep as we went back to the somewhat safer Seoul.

Thursday March 31

Samsung Bioepis – by Lynn-Jade Jong and Bregje Crum

On the 31st of March, we went to Samsung Bioepis. In the morning the bus driver picked us up from our guesthouse and drove us to Incheon, the city where the campus of Samsung Electronics is settled. Here, we first had to go through the security check and after that we entered Samsung Bioepis.

We were welcomed by Dr. Boudy König who gave an introductory talk and told us all about the BioEpis Department. Samsung BioEpis is a research department of Samsung that focuses on the development of biosimilars, which are biomedical products that are in fact identical copies of an original product manufactured by another pharmaceutical company. The necessary chemicals are produced by specialized cell lines and during development of a biosimilar a lot of effort is put into increasing the productivity of the cells. There is a lot of focus on a high yield, this results in fewer costs for the patient. In general, the development process of a biosimilar takes approximately seven or eight years. Because of a high efficiency and productivity, Samsung Bioepis is able to develop these products in four years. During this process, the quality of an already existing reference drug will be compared and evaluated. Besides this, a license(patent) on the biosimilar is required so research on these patents is a necessity, this will be performed by the legal patent department. During the presentation, all our questions about biosimilars and the production of biosimilars were answered.

After this, it was time for lunch. We divided the big group in smaller groups, to make it easier for us to mobilize to the cafeteria. When we got there, we had a lot of different menu choices and everyone had the chance to pick what they wanted to eat.

After that, we had an interactive talk with Charles Gerrits as well as Boudy König. We talked about the research and how the high productivity is reached. A lot of knowledge is required to produce a good biosimilar and developing one takes years. Releasing all the knowledge and expertise necessary to produce a biosimilar, the conversation steered towards career paths. During this time we discussed what strategies are needed to build your resume. Furthermore, we discussed the best way to get in touch with high profile people. If you write an email it must be short and clear, also it is important to explain what you can do for them.

Next, it was time for a tour of the lab. Of course, we had to gear up and put lab coats and safety goggles on, before entering the lab. A few employees guided us through the lab while explaining the different available equipment and telling us about the daily life in the lab. Some of the questions could not be answered due to confidentiality of the research on which they were working on.

Before going back to the hostel, we visited one more place. Located in the company self, you have the Samsung Innovation Museum. This museum is great opportunity to learn about the technology innovation process in the last century. Starting with the most basic innovations and finishing with future technological innovations.

Overall it has been a most interesting, informative and illuminating day as everyone agreed during the busride back to the hostel.

Friday April 1

Korea University – by Carmen Blanken and Marjolein Verhoeven

On April 1 2016, we went to the Center for Molecular Spectroscopy and Dynamics (CMSD) of Korea University. Professor Minhaeng Cho, the director of CMSD, gave us a warm welcome and explained their objective to us: to develop new spectroscopic techniques to detect small molecules and enable deep-tissue imaging. He introduced the next four speakers, all working in his group as professors in the field of biophysics.

The first talk, on single molecule biophysics, was given by prof. Hong. However, the first thing he wanted to share with us was his proudness of several Korean icons, such as professional Go-player Lee Sedol, Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-na, who studied at Korea University, and of course Psy, famous for his “Gangnam style” hit referring to Seoul’s Gangnam area, meaning “under the river” as we learned from prof. Hong. But actually his specialization was on the B to Z transition of DNA, that plays a role in several diseases in which persons produce antibodies against Z-DNA. His research focused on different factors that influence this transition, such as torque, tension and rate constants. His goal was to lower the energy barrier between the two states and make the transition dynamic, just like his talk was!

The second talk was held by prof. Shim and was about super-resolution optical microscopy. This technique is unique for its ability to visualize living cells with a high resolution, up to nanometers, quite impressive! In a project she carried out at Harvard University, she studied the influence of external Ca2+-concentration on the type of movement of sperm cell tails when they come close to the female egg. They have to go from a propeller motion to a beating motion to be able to reach the egg. She discovered, by means of STORM measurements, that only sperm cells with intact CatSper-protein domains are capable of this beating state.

The next speaker was prof. Choi, who talked about super-depth optical imaging. The problem he was facing in examining skin layers was that the light was scattered too much. He explained us his goal was to make the image depth as large as possible while maintaining a high spatial resolution, for example for the detection of cancer lesions. By computing the transmission matrix of the scattering medium, he was able to distinguish scattering noise from the relevant signal in the transmitted light. He combined his findings and his love for beer to come to a method called Collective Accumulation of Single Scattering microscopy (CASS is a Korean beer brand), with which the desired super-depth images could be obtained.

The final presentation was about ultrafast multi-dimensional spectroscopy. In contrast to prof. Choi, prof. Kwak focused on time resolution instead of spatial resolution. His very ambitious aim was to make the resolution so small, i.e. in the order of femtoseconds, that even the movement of one single atom during a chemical reaction could be followed. He showed us a picture of an experimental setup with a level of complexity that only nerds would get happy from. The fundamental rule he believed in was as follows:
Nerd Power = Number of Components*Area
After all those new insights we got, we were taken on a short lab tour. The morning was concluded with a wonderful lunch at a typical Korean tofu restaurant. We want to thank all people that made this visit an inspiring experience!

Monday April 4

Dutch Embassy – by Gertrand Prins and Joost Vervaet

On Monday the 4th of April, we took an afternoon trip to the Dutch Embassy in South Korea. After we spend a week speaking primarily English, it was a refreshing change to speak Dutch for a while. The Dutch embassy itself was located in a skyscraper near the city hall. The first thing we noticed was the portrait of the King and Queen and that the sinks in the toilet were placed at a regular height so we did not have to bend over to wash our hands. At the embassy, Mr. Wijlhuizen gave us a lecture about living in Korea and Korean culture based on a few important numbers. We discussed, among other things, the rise of income since 1950, the Olympic games, the perks of raising a child, the work ethos, the dating and eating culture, and how the South Koreans view living with North Korea as their closest neighbor.

Also, Mr. Wijlhuizen explained us the Dutch interest globally and especially the Dutch interests in Korea (and what their job as embassy is herein). After the lecture Mr. Wijlhuizen took us to a Korean barbecue where we could experience some local delicacy. After a great meal Mr. took us to a Karaoke bar where we spend the rest of the evening singing.

Tuesday April 5

Institut Pasteur Korea – by Carmen van Hooijdonk and Carlien Wolters

Right now we have been in Korea for more than a week. We have seen a lot already and are enjoying our time in Seoul and Busan! Both cities are really nice and there are a lot of interesting differences compared to our lives in the Netherlands. Today a visit tour to institute Pasteur Korea was planned.
Institute Pasteur Korea is focusing on infectious disease research. Originally it has been founded in 1887 by Dr. Louis Pasteur in Paris, who discovered the pasteurization and vaccines for anthrax and rabies. Right now there are 33 institutes located in 27 countries in 5 continents. The institute is divided into different research labs for 7 different infectious diseases. They have research labs for: tuberculosis, hepatitis, respiratory viruses, dengue, antibacterial resistance, cancer biology and leishmania. The overall mission is to develop new molecular targets and small molecules to diagnose and treat infectious diseases and increase global health.
We arrived at the institute in the morning after a bus journey and a nice morning walk in the sun. After an introduction about the institute, different speakers informed us about different infectious diseases; why are they interesting for research?; What is the role of the institute in the developmental process of a cure?; Why is Pasteur located in Korea?

The first speaker, Regis Grailhe, PhD, talked about high content image analysis and how they develop candidates for drug development by use of different assays (biochemical/cell based). High content image analysis visualize and quantifies biological events in living cells and screens physiological compounds such as cell counting, morphology and stress response. The second speaker, Joo Hwan No, PhD, talked about the leishmania lab. He talked about drug identification and the parasite leishmania. Leishmania is the biggest parasitical cause of death after malaria. Therefore, finding a new treatment in case of drug resistance is very important. The third speaker, Vincent Delorme, PhD from the tuberculosis research lab, talked about the two different goals which his lab has. The first goal is finding a medication against the latent form of tuberculosis, which is present in many cases and can transfer in the active form of tuberculosis which can lead to death. The second goal is to study the interactions with the host. The fourth speaker was Marc P. Windisch, PhD, head of the hepatitis research lab. He told us about his past and current research on hepatitis B and C, respectively. The fifth speaker was Soojin Jang, PhD, who contributes to the antibacterial resistance research lab. She told us about the inappropriate use of antibiotics and the problems it causes. In the research lab they are trying to develop new antibacterial agents. The last speaker, David Shum, MS, told us about assay development and screening. He concluded his talk by informing us about the different labs Institute Pasteur Korea has.

After the different talks, we were guided around the Institute. We visited the compound room, where the compounds are developed, stored and compressed for further research. We have also seen a BSL 2+ lab, which serves as a lab for researching leishmania, HBV and HCV.

We ended our visit with a nice lunch! We really enjoyed visiting Institute Pasteur Korea and it made us aware of the possibility of working at an institute like Institute Pasteur after graduation!

Wednesday April 6

Korean Folk Village – by Fleur van der Vis and Nienke Sijtsema

On Wednesday a visit was planned to Hallym University Medical Center, but first it was time to visit the Korean Folk village. This museum is an open air museum and gave us the opportunity to experience the Korea of the past. Our guide gave us a one hour tour of the park and she taught us about the living conditions of South Korean people centuries ago. We walked by traditional houses, with tile- and thatched roofs, to see the arrangement and function purposes of the several chambers. The sun was shining and the trees were filled with blossom and good luck pouches.

There were four shows that we have visited which were a great experience. The first show was given by traditional dressed musicians and dancers who accompanied themselves with percussion instruments. One of us, Bram, was called on the stage to assist in a trick of one of the artists.

The second show was a rope dancer who performed as well an exaggerated one man play as amazing robe dance skills. After she was safe with both feet on the ground we followed up to the next and last show: The wedding ceremony. The ceremony was led by two men who sang a Korean rhyme over and over and thereby marrying the couple. Both the groom and bride looked unhappy although they were beautifully dressed up. After that it was time for the final show: the equine show. It was great to see the different artist perform acrobatics on top of the horses as well as archery and javelin-throwing.

This all made us hungry so we visited the food court which served typical South-Korean dishes on a plate accompanied with the accepted side dishes. There was time for another stroll to the park and enjoy the sun. Although, the park was dominated by school classes and small families, the Korean Folk Village was a relaxed morning entertainment where we have learned about the traditional way of living and ceremonies.
Hallym University Medical Center – by Margo van Gent and Lisanne Kruijver

After a short bus ride from the Korean Folk Village, we arrived at Hallym University Dongtan Sacred Heart Hospital where Dr. Mee Young Kim started with an introduction of the hospital. Hallym University Dongtan Sacred Heart Hospital is the 6th hospital of Hallym University Medical Center that is located in Dongtan. Their vision is ‘Growing to be a mighty global player with proven medical expertise and specialization’.

After the introduction, Gertrand Prins held a short presentation about Medical Natural Sciences and the VU University Medical Center Amsterdam. Next up was the hospital tour across six departments. At the private ward, we got a tour of a hospital room that almost looked like an apartment. Family members of a patient can stay here overnight and they can cook for the patient. At the operation ward, we were told that the hospital is trying to get the possibility to carry out transplants in the near future. At the Digestive Disease Center, we learned how digestive diseases are properly diagnosed and treated at Hallym Dongtan Hospital. We mainly spoke about endoscopes and how they are used in examinations for diagnosis. We also visited the Hospital’s Emergency Medical Center in which patients with acute problems are treated as quickly as possible. During our visit, the ER seemed rather quiet, compared to Dutch hospitals, but our tour guides assured us that it is busier most of the time. Still, patients do not have to wait long before their treatment. The ER hosts several rooms: a meeting room in which the patient will first have an intake conversation, several examination rooms with proper equipment and an infirmary for patients to get their treatment. In one of the examination rooms one of our group members volunteered to demonstrate the ECG equipment (Philips! :D). Next up was the Radiology department that hosted CT, X-ray and MRI equipment. We could take a look at how these devices were used in the hospital. A nice feature was that each control room of the CT and MRI scanners hosted two scanners in total, instead of just one. This made it possible for the personnel to help each other out quickly. Furthermore, we visited the department of Nuclear Medicine. This department is situated in the basement of the hospital. We have seen a gamma camera and a PET-CT combination. The PET-CT is very useful as body functions can be visualized directly in its anatomical environment.