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Two years of exciting OA research with PhD student Amanda Sjögren

Amanda Sjögren looking in to the camera when doing work in the laboratory

Last year, we had several opportunities to engage with Amanda Sjögren’s work during her time as a PhD student at the Unit for Clinical Epidemiology in Orthopedics at Lund University.

For those who need a reminder of what Amanda does, the previous parts can be read here, or by scrolling to the bottom of the page. In short, Amanda focuses on knee osteoarthritis at the molecular level during her PhD. For her research, she uses human knee tissue, which she describes as a valuable source. The donated tissue comes partly from deceased individuals who have chosen to donate tissue for research, and partly from living individuals who have undergone prosthetic surgery due to osteoarthritis. The tissue from deceased individuals represents a healthy group, allowing for comparison between healthy and diseased tissue in research.

It has been almost two years since Amanda Sjögren started her PhD position, and she shares that it feels like she has made significant progress.

Two years means halfway through the four-year PhD service, and we wondered if anything special happens in connection with this. Amanda says that it may look different at different universities, but the Faculty of Medicine at Lund University has a mid-term review where the PhD student presents what they have done so far and talks about the project plan until the defense. Reviewers come to the mid-term review to provide feedback and ask questions about the work. Amanda feels that she has a good handle on her projects and that there is a solid plan. The thesis to be completed by the end of the PhD period will include, among other things, two published or accepted articles. Amanda mentions that there are many journals with different focuses and that the various journals can have different guidelines that need to be followed.

The last time we interviewed Amanda, she talked about a manuscript that she and some colleagues were writing and planned to submit to a journal. The manuscript was submitted at the end of the summer of 2023, and during the fall, they got it back after a number of experts had read and commented on the work. Amanda says that as an author, you then read through the comments and either correct based on the response or argue your case if you disagree. Amanda also spent some time in the lab in connection with the revision to verify the results. The manuscript has now been submitted again, and Amanda says that it is not uncommon to receive more comments even the second time it is submitted, and that the manuscript is then possibly accepted and published. Getting something published in a journal is thus time-consuming, and Amanda says that it can also be expensive, depending on the journal.

Amanda has other projects underway in parallel, one of which involves looking at proteomics in cartilage and has involved collecting cartilage parts that she analyzes in the lab. The plan is to finalize the data during the spring to be able to start the next phase with data analysis and writing during the summer. In addition, Amanda is working on a histology project where data analysis is the next step. Histology involves looking at a thin slice of tissue in cross-section, which has been stained to make structures in the tissue visible. For cartilage specifically, there are previously published studies that describe a grading system for the degree of osteoarthritis from histology images. Moreover, she is working on a third project where she will write the manuscript; the data has already been collected.

A lot of time has been spent in the lab, and Amanda shares that she feels more confident there now. There is also a lot of good help from colleagues who have extensive lab experience, which is reassuring. After testing and then performing something yourself, you become more confident and can manage it on your own the next time, she says.

Amanda has previously mentioned that she has had the opportunity to participate in several conferences both in Sweden and abroad. Her next conference will be at OARSI (Osteoarthritis Research Society International) in Vienna in April. It is a larger conference than the one she attended in Italy. The conference focuses on osteoarthritis, and there is an opportunity to learn a lot and network with others in the industry. Amanda also shares that she will be presenting a poster at the conference; it is based on the manuscript submitted to a journal, which will hopefully soon be accepted.

We wondered what Amanda thinks is the best part of the job, now that she is halfway through. Amanda says that one thing she really appreciates is the freedom and flexibility that comes with the position, although it can sometimes be challenging for the same reason. A major advantage that Amanda experiences is that you get to take a lot of responsibility for your work, and she enjoys that. Amanda also mentions that she previously worked in a different environment where times and work were much more controlled, which gave a different feeling that she did not enjoy as much.

If you want to read more about what is included in a PhD period at the Faculty of Medicine at Lund University, you can find it here.