A knack for lab work 

Shadi Hussein left Syria because of the war and now lives in Germany. An internship in the labs of MDC researcher Annette Hammes may help him re-enter his learned profession.

Shadi Hussein carefully moves the handle, thin sections are shaved from the paraffin block and transported into the waterbath. He focusses intensely while arranging the sections with a fine brush and transferring them onto slides to dry. “We prepared and embedded the embryos yesterday, today I am cutting sections, and tomorrow I can stain them,” he explains the procedure.

Shadi Hussein at the microtome. Image: Maimona ID, MDC

Shadi is taking part in the Helmholtz Initiative for Integration of Refugees and spends his internship at the MDC in order to get to know the working environment of the Helmholtz Community and to improve his chances in the German job market.  Shadi, who studied food technology in Syria, is learning molecular biology techniques like PCR and plasmid prep as well as microtome sectioning and histology with the help of postdoc Nora Mecklenburg. Anette Hammes is impressed: “Shadi is a fast learner and works very carefully. Since the last six weeks, his German has already much improved,” says the PI. She emphasizes especially his manual aptitude. Shadi has a knack for bench work, the developmental biologist noticed.

Shadi Hussein came to Germany in 2015 and currently holds a B1 German certificate. “German is really difficult and in class, there is not much time for conversation,” he explains.  Speaking German every day in the lab has made a big difference, and he has easily integrated into the group of international scientists. While learning new skills in the lab, Shadi also got support in researching job opportunities and writing application letters. Secretary Cornelia Stärkel helped him polish his letters of application. He already got an invitation to an interview for an apprenticeship in a Berlin based food company.  “I got many useful suggestions from my colleagues,” says Shadi who would love to work in his profession again. The internship has prepared him for the next steps.

Together with the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the German GeoForschungsZentrum (GFZ), the MDC is supporting refugees in Germany. One of the aims is to provide them with the necessary tools to enter the job market. Groups that would like to join and offer an internship to a refugee can contact the program coordinator, Maimona Id.  “The internship is beneficial for both parties,” summarizes Annette Hammes. “Shadi has been a great help to us.”

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