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International student: Bioscience is world-class in marine bioacoustics

Every year hundreds of international students travel to Aarhus University to study. One of them is Ellen Rose Jacobs from California, USA. She is studying her Master’s degree in Biology at the Department of Bioscience because she wanted to work with and learn from researchers who are at the forefront of their fields.

2018.05.03 | Lea Laursen Pasgaard

Ellen Rose Jacobs wants to work in bioacoustics research when she graduates. Photo: Melissa Yildirim

When 23-year-old Ellen Rose Jacobs finished her bachelor from University of California in San Diego, she made the decision to travel 8,600 kilometers away from home to study her Master’s degree in Biology at the Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University.

So what motivates a student to travel halfway around the world for a Master’s degree? Ellen Rose Jacobs gives us her answer here.

Where did you grow up? 

In Cupertino, California, USA.

Where and what did you study before you came to Denmark?

I studied at the University of California, San Diego, and got a Bachelor's of Science in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution.

Which courses are you taking? 

This semester I'm doing an independent biological project for ECTS points. Later in the semester, I'll be going to do field work in Dominica, to collect data for my Master's project. Last semester, I took Respiratory Physiology, Biogeography and Macroecology, and Neuro, Muscular and Sensory Physiology. 

What do you specialize in?

I'm working in a lab in the Zoophysiology department, but I'm specializing specifically in marine bioacoustics.

Why did you chose to study at Bioscience, Aarhus University?

I chose Aarhus University because of the faculty. The lab I'm studying in here is world-class in marine bioacoustics, so I came here to study with researchers at the forefront of their fields. I've worked in a number of bioacoustics labs, but the one here at Aarhus University is definitely among the best. I've followed their work in my previous studies so it's almost surreal to get to work directly with them. 

What do you think of the Master’s degree program so far?

I'm getting real research experience and right from the start, which is incredibly valuable.  

- Ellen Rose Jacobs, international student at Bioscience

I'm really enjoying it! The flexibility to study what I am interested in is fantastic. In a more strictly structured Master's program, I wouldn't be able to do extended field work in my first year, but here at Aarhus everything is accommodating enough that I can take advantage of all that the university has to offer. I'm getting real research experience and right from the start, which is incredibly valuable. I appreciate that nothing I do here is busy work. There is an emphasis on real-life application, so any lab exercises in my classes demonstrate valuable theories from our curriculum, and my independent projects are attempts at actual contributions to my field.

How would you describe the research environment at the department? 

It is very open and welcoming! There are resources available to anyone who needs them and everyone I've encountered so far has been happy to help me with anything I need. At the same time, it's clear that this is a very productive research environment with exciting projects going on in every lab.

How would you describe the relationship between students and staff?

I'd heard about Denmark's flat hierarchical power structure, but when I arrived it was still a positive surprise! The staff and faculty are mostly laid-back in their interactions with students, which creates a low-pressure environment and makes it very comfortable come to them with any problems. My professors have all been high up in the department, but they treat the students as equals. Ultimately, I feel respected by the staff, which makes my experience here infinitely better than it would be in a department with a strict power structure.

How would you describe the equipment, knowhow and labs at Bioscience?

The quality and amount of equipment here are pretty incredible! Having worked in some low-funded labs in the past, it is such a positive experience to work in a lab that has all the resources I need to accomplish my projects. There are dedicated staff members for helping with hardware and software problems, and most anything we need for our projects is either already owned by the lab or can be ordered. Everyone I've interacted with is highly knowledgeable not just in their specific field, but in a variety of disciplines within the department and can either help me with any problems I'm having or connect me with someone who can.

What do you want to work with when you graduate?

I would like to work in bioacoustics research when I graduate. I'm really excited about marine bioacoustics, and the longer I spend studying in the field, the more I like it and feel that it's what I want to spend my life doing.

Do you have any additional comments about your stay?

Everyone here has no problems communicating in English. Even though the program is in English and everyone in the department speaks English at a high level, I had some initial apprehensions about whether not speaking Danish would be too much of a barrier to feel integrated into the lab and the program. However, there's a very integrated international community within the lab, and even in settings in which everyone else is Danish, everyone speaks English to include me in the conversations. Everyone is very welcoming!    

BIOS, Public / media, Staff, Students, Department of Bioscience