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Postgraduate students report on study abroad experience at KU Leuven in Belgium (Vol. 1)

From October 18, 2019 to November 18 2019, Ms. Kyoko Fijihira, a doctoral student of sport sciences at Waseda University, visited KU Leuven in Belgium as a visiting student through the Top Global University Program. Below is a report from Ms. Fujihira.

2019 Top Global University Project
Health Promotion: The Joy of Sports and Exercise
Graduate Students Academic Travel Support

After report

Waseda University, Graduate School of Sport Sciences
Doctoral Course, Kyoko FUJIHIRA
Study abroad destination: KU Leuven, Belgium
Supervisor in KU Leuven: Katrien Koppo

Ⅰ. About the travel support

KU Leuven and conference

I visited the laboratory of professor Katrien Koppo in KU Leuven from October 18, 2019 to November 18, 2019 as an exchange student through the Top Global University Program. After that, I participated in the British Association of Sports and Exercise Sciences Conference 2019, one of the largest sports sciences conferences, and did a poster presentation on November 19 in Leicester, UK. I would like to write about what I have learned in the last month.

Ⅱ. About KU Leuven

KU Leuven is located in the city of Leuven, which is 20 minutes by train from Brussels, the capital of Belgium. KU Leuven is one of the oldest universities in Europe. In the 2019 QS ranking, KU Leuven ranked 11th in sports-related subjects. KU Leuven is a world leader in exercise and health, rehabilitation, physiotherapy, physical education, sports and performance. KU Leuven has amazing facilities for top-level athletes and sports teams such as sports halls and indoor athletics stadiums. The Department of Movement Sciences office is located in Teruvursevest, a 10-minute bicycle ride from the centre of Leuven.

Ⅲ. Research at KU Leuven

Measurement of Proteins Using Antigen-Antibody Reactions

I visited the laboratory of Professor Katrien Koppo, who specializes in muscle biology, and participated in the experiment at KU Leuven. In the experiment, I took part in protein measurements in muscle samples using the antigen-antibody reaction, protein measurements in muscle samples using electrophoresis, and mitochondrial measurements in muscle samples using succinate dehydrogenase under the direction of PhD student Sebastiaan. In Prof. Katrien Koppo’s laboratory, they collected tissues from muscle cells, which is rare in the field of sports science in Japan. For the first time, I was able to experience electrophoresis and mitochondrial measurement using human muscle tissue. Electrophoretic assays have the advantage of being able to measure more than one measurement item at a time, unlike antigen-antibody tests, which usually measure one measurement item at a time.

Research meeting

On the other hand, measurement takes about three days including preparation. Mitochondrial measurements are made by cutting muscle tissue from a subject and measuring it with an electron microscope after staining with succinate dehydrogenase to determine how much mitochondria are increased by experimental intervention.
Also, I introduced the research I conducted in my doctoral course in the research meeting. The content of the research is “The effects of drink temperature on gastric motility and energy intake”. Members of the laboratory gave me comments about mechanisms and research procedures. At that time, I was about to have my final defense in about a month, so, the opinions provided by them at this research meeting were very helpful in preparing for my final defense.

Ⅳ.About my daily life in Belgium

In Belgium, I stayed at a guest house that was located 15 minutes away by bicycle from the university. Leuven is a circular city that is about 2km in diameter, a remnant from the Middle Ages. About half of the students at KU Leuven are international students, so it was a very livable environment with international restaurants and grocery stores. The centre of Leuven was lined with restaurants and crowded with students every Thursday night. During my stay in Belgium, I enjoyed meals and beers with friends from Leuven, which provided a good opportunity for international exchange. And in Belgium, like the Netherlands, many people use bicycles, and the city also had extensive bicycle lanes. The percentage of students who use bicycles was also high, and I felt that the amount of physical activity was high. In the university, there was a sports facility called a sports hall, which students and the community people could use. In Leuven, I understand that exercise was their habit in daily life.

Ⅴ. British Association of Sports and Exercise Sciences Conference 2019

Poster presentation in BASE

 In November 19, 2019, I attended the British Association of Sports and Exercise Sciences Conference 2019 (BASES 2019), the largest sports science conference in the UK. At BASES 2019, I had a presentation in poster sessions. The poster title is “The effects of water ingestion after exercise on gastric motility and energy intake in healthy young men”. Fortunately, I had a lot of questions that asked about the effects of drinking on preventing dehydration and appetite. Also, as BASES 2019 was held at the end of the Rugby World Cup in Japan, there was a symposium that talked about the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan. An interesting point was how a rugby team spent their before a game in Japan. One of the interesting stories was about how convenience stores had a wide variety of processed chicken and salad in small portions, and it was helpful for the athletes to choose their meal. After the meeting, I went to Loughborough University with Professor David Stensel. I traveled to his laboratory using the Top Global University Project funding last year. And, I discussed the progress of the research I participated in last year with him.

Ⅵ. Ending message

I would like to say thank you to Professor Katrien Koppo and PhD student Sebastiaan. Thanks to them, I learned a lot of research techniques in muscle biology. These research techniques will surely be useful for my future research. Professor Katrien Koppo takes a lot of time to communicate with laboratory members, and she has a strong relationship with her laboratory members. Sebastiaan is very kind and excelled in the skill of muscle biology experiments. Also, I would like to say thank you to Bavo Meert of KU Leuven. He greeted us very warmly and visited our laboratory many times during our trip. Furthermore, I would like to say thank you to Professor David Stensel of Loughborough University. He accepted me to his laboratory on my trip last year and I was able to meet him again this year at the BASES conference.
Finally, I would like to say thank you to Professor Katrien Koppo, Sebastiaan, and the members of their laboratory, Bavo Meert, my wonderful friends at KU Lueven, and many of the staff at Waseda University, including Associate Professor Masashi Miyashita, for their efforts in the journey.

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