‘If you’re interested in analytical sciences and socializing, ASTP is the program for you’

Milena Melnyk fell in love with the Dutch clouds ánd with the Analytical Science Talent Program (ASTP). “I always look forward to the ASTP-Saturdays.”

b5b63e50-892c-11ee-86fd-aa7666fdc5f0 Chemistrystudent Milena Melnyk volgt het ASTP-programma

The reasons why Ukrainian student Milena Melnyk (21) came to HAN to study Life Sciences are quite straightforward. “I’ve always felt a mental connection with nature”, she says. “And I especially enjoy learning about plants. The HAN had the option to specialize in plant biology, so that sounded good to me.”

The reason why she chose the Netherlands to begin with, is a bit more surprising. It was during her highschool graduation trip to Amsterdam that Milena says she fell in love with the country. Not because of its cheeses or Amsterdam’s canals, but because of the clouds. “They are so low here, and so perfectly white against the blue sky. In other countries I didn’t notice them as much. But here, they struck me. Can you imagine that feeling, standing on the Museumplein? I knew that I needed to come back here.” 

Looking for expertise

And so she did. Milena is now a third year Life Sciences student, and she’s completely blended in in the Dutch student life. That is partly thanks to her many extracurricular activities. She has been a class representative for two years, is part of the Degree Committee of SABC, she volunteers to help organizations around Nijmegen become more sustainable in their practices with the student organization AGREEn, ánd she’s started her second year of the Analytical Science Talent Programme (ASTP).

The ASTP is an extracurricular program for excelling students in Chemistry and Life Sciences in the Netherlands. It is designed by COAST, a collaboration of industrial leaders who are always looking for the expertise that these students provide. “And for us it’s a great opportunity to network, of course”, Milena adds. “We’re getting lectures from renowned experts in the field of analytical sciences, like professors and leading company scientists.”

Relevant knowledge and network

ASTP focuses mainly on various analytical chemistry techniques, which is useful for both Chemistry and Life Sciences students. “We’re learning about various types of chromatography, like HPLC, and about Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), which is used in MRI-scans among other things. Last year I was writing a literature review on plant metabolism, and I kept noticing that I was already familiar with the techniques that were mentioned because of the ASTP.”

ASTP students get together once a month on a Saturday for a special one-day course, in which they get acquainted with these areas of expertise. The lectures mostly take place in either Nijmegen, Utrecht or Amsterdam. “So it’s a nice way to get around the country too. And perhaps good to know for students who are interested: the costs for traveling are fully reimbursed, and the ASTP is entirely free of charge.”

'Feels like a community'

Besides gaining useful knowledge and a highly relevant network, it is probably the socializing part that Milena enjoys the most about the ASTP. “It’s so nice to come together each month with people who are all interested in the same things as you. It really feels like a community. I look forward to the ASTP-Saturdays every time, and at the end of August there’s a summer course where everyone gathers for a week to learn, present projects, and, of course, to have fun. We all live together in a group accommodation during that week, which is really nice.”

“So, yes, I would definitely recommend first-year students to apply for the ASTP around April/May.”

More information on the ASTP program

Author Pim Muller
Photo David van Haren