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Spotlight on Young Researchers

Dr. Irene de Boer, PhD Candidate

Dr. Irene de Boer

Dr. Irene de Boer is medical doctor and a PhD candidate at Leiden University Medical Centre, Netherlands. Her research aims to gain insight into the genetics of migraine and the clinical spectrum of associated hereditary disorders.


In this interview with Dr. Irene de Boer, we asked her about what got her involved in migraine research, her future plans, and if she has any advice for fellow young scientists.

How did you get involved in migraine research and what does your research focus on?

At present, I am a PhD candidate at the Leiden Headache Center in the group of Prof. Gisela Terwindt. During my medicine degree, I quickly realized that I wanted to understand the biological mechanisms underlying (neurological) disorders. I wanted to contribute to further understanding the pathogenesis of disorders with the purpose to ultimately find a cure. I therefore also completed a biomedical science degree and during my education I started to contribute to research projects at the Leiden Headache Center. My interests in neurology and genetics led me to finding a PhD project in this group located at the crossroad between these fields. My research mainly focusses on gaining insight into the genetics of migraine and the clinical spectrum of associated hereditary disorders, such as hemiplegic migraine and Retinal Vasculopathy with Cerebral Leukoencephalopathy and Systemic manifestations (RVCL-S).

Which impact has your involvement in migraine research had on your career so far?

My involvement in migraine research has given me the opportunity to learn new skills, meet many interesting people, expand my (inter)national network and attend several interesting congresses. My involvement in research has taught me to always keep an open mind and to critically assess myself and situations. I believe this does not only make me a better researcher, but also a better physician.

What has been the main factor for your continuous engagement in migraine research?

My strongest motivator are the patients. Their stories, in both clinical practice and in a research setting, are an inspiration and motivate me to strive to be the best researcher and physician I can be. My continuous engagement has led me to pursue further funding opportunities to continue my research after my PhD and has resulted in me obtaining a personal grant to support this.

Where do you see yourself and the field of migraine research in 10 years – what’s the next step?

In ten years, I see myself working at an academic hospital as a researcher and physician still involved in headache research. I expect that in the coming years, advancements in the field will help improve understanding of the biological pathways underlying migraine and will lead to biomarker-driven approaches to diagnosis, treatment, and drug development. This will help guide the way towards personalized medicine for migraine patients.

What is your advice for fellow young scientists who want to get involved in migraine research?

I believe that the most important advice is to choose a topic of research that you are genuinely interested in. This decision will likely shape the rest of your career! There will always be challenges during your research and if you are not passionate about your study, finding motivation will be a struggle. Next, one should search for a place where they feel inspired, where they know that enrapturing things are being done! If possible, during your education try to gain some research experience, that way you will know if this fascinating world is a good fit for you! Once you have started, cultivate your scientific curiosity, take pride in doing things well, and nurture big but realistic ambitions and most importantly, do not forget to enjoy your time as a PhD student!