Joining the IRTG

Merryn Fraser (ANU)

Published March 28, 2018


At the start of 2018, I was lucky enough to be able to visit Berlin prior to commencing my PhD in Australia. Exchanging the 40oC Canberra Summer for a snowy Winter was a welcome exchange, and I used this opportunity to explore Humboldt University. I was very excited to meet the supervisors and students I will be working with in the coming years, and glad to find that in addition to their scientific expertise, they are wonderful people. It was very interesting to visit labs with different specialisations and set ups to what I am used to in Australia. I also experienced a taste of Humboldt campus life, and explore a city over six hundred years older than my own. I am looking forward to returning in 2019 to study (Image, M Fraser).

FELASA B animal handling training course

Julie-Anne Gabelich (ANU)

Published March 13, 2018


I recently attended the FELASA B animal training course in order to become certified in working with animals during my PhD. The course consists of both a theoretical online and a practical hands-on component.


I took the online course offered in English. The online material was translated from Portuguese, and some translations were missed so it was entertaining to find pockets of Portuguese within the content. This portion of the course gave a pretty comprehensive overview of animal handling, even expanding past typical rodent usage. There is a lot of material, but the in-person practical training really goes over most of the handling techniques listed for mice and rats, so it helped reinforce everything that I read.


The practical training took place here on the HU campus at Haus 8. There was a total of 6 students present, all from different backgrounds and locations in Germany. Apparently this course is one of the few that are approved for many institutions, so students traveled from as far as Bonn to come participate. Our group consisted of a 3rd year medical student looking for training so she could preform a research thesis, a laboratory technician, a post-doc researcher from China, and a couple PhD students. Aside from the usual get-to-know-each-other awkwardness that comes with these courses, the participants were friendly and motivated to learn the material presented to us.


During the course we were taught mouse and rat specific restraining techniques. One rat was particularly jumpy and gave his handler a difficult time. For the rest of us, it was rather funny. Later, we practiced tagging techniques on dead mice. We then learned how to score animals behavior based on standardized tests as well as creating a score sheet specific to a hypothetical experiment. The focus of the second day was on experimental techniques common to rodent handling, and the last day’s objective was to learn about rat and mouse anatomy as well as surgery techniques. We performed a complete dissection of the rat where we were responsible for identifying all the organs. We also practiced how to preform incisions for surgery and subsequent suturing.


The course overall was very informative, even considering that I have had animal experience and training courses in the past. It was much more hands on training than I expected, but I feel it was enough to help me feel more confident in my work. The instructors were all very involved, enthusiastic, and willing to help us learn. We received a lot of individualized attention, and we were free to ask as many questions as was necessary. It was very obvious the care our instructors had for the animals and her desire to make sure we treated them well.