6 July 2023

Master's student talks about her stay at Helix Lab in Kalundborg

Helix Lab

Christina Papamichail finished her MSc thesis in Helix Lab with Novo Nordisk on Cleaning In Place (CIP). Read about her thoughts and reflections in connection with the studies in the Helix Lab and about student life in Kalundborg.

Christina Papamichail
Christina Papamichail

Helix Lab gives MSc students the possibility to do master thesis work in collaboration with the industry in Kalundborg, Denmark.  Application for a Helix Lab fellowship requires establishment of a project collaboration between an industry specialist, a university supervisor, and a MSc student.

Read more about the Helix Lab.

You have just completed your MSc thesis on CIP (Cleaning In Place) in the Helix Lab in Kalundborg together with Novo Nordisk. Why did you choose going to the Helix Lab in the first place?

I had a more academic background because I had focused on my studies and research. I was a research assistant at the university before starting my second master. However, I wanted to broaden my qualifications and be a process engineer. My decision resulted in conducting the Food Science and Technology Master at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH). It is a master that from the beginning had a close relationship with different industries, either through internships or lectures from experts working at well-known companies. Thus, I wanted to continue in the same pattern and have as a master thesis a project that was in close collaboration with a company. After talking to different professors regarding possible master thesis projects, I figured that I could have a master thesis project in collaboration with a company through the Helix Lab Fellowship. The Helix Lab fellowship was everything I wanted for my thesis. I had the chance to put the scientific background in practice, while working at a pharmaceutical company. It was the meeting point of knowledge and competence, as it has an ideal blend of academia, scientific expertise, and industrial know-how. Helix Lab is a beneficial link between the students and the industry experts; as it brings a new point of view and enthusiasm from the students to industrial projects, while the industry experts provide the students the chance to work on a current industrial project and prepare them for their next step in their career. I saw the Helix Lab Fellowship as a once in a lifetime experience that could assist my future growth.

What was a typical day in the Helix Lab like?

At Helix Lab I conducted the experimental part of my thesis. Usually, I was either alone or a fellow Helix student was there as well for experiments, and we kept each other company. Personally, I didn’t mind the quiet environment because it allowed me to be more focused in my experiments. I felt well prepared for being in the lab alone. The Laboratory Technician gives you a tour of the laboratory at the beginning of your thesis, explaining all the equipment and everything you need to know; and is also the person to contact if you need any help.

How did you get guidance / mentoring?

I had a weekly meeting with both of my supervisors’ present (from Novo Nordisk and University of Copenhagen) to follow up on my progress regarding the project and to be on the same page with both of them. In those meetings I had the chance to express any concerns or ask for more guidance. If I had questions that were more specific about the industrial know-how or the scientific background, was requesting a meeting with the relative supervisor.

Was your stay in the Helix Lab as you expected? If not, what was different?

It was as I expected and even better. The lab is well equipped and new. The staff are very nice, helpful and easy to talk to. It was very clear from the beginning that they care; not only for the students having anything they might need for their project, but also about the student’s wellbeing. They arranged different activities for us to participate in every Thursday for free – visits to all the companies at Kalundborg to know them better and many interesting Tech Talks to inspire us.

What was the best thing about your stay?

Definitely the people. The period of conducting the master’s thesis is stressful for all students. If it is combined with a new environment and relocation, it might be even more so. But all of us had that in common and it brought us very quickly together. It was very nice to see people that you didn’t know until recently to try to help you however they could and cheer you up.

Were there any challenges that you hadn't anticipated? 

I knew from the beginning that it would be a tough period because the duration of master thesis at UCPH is 4 months. I had made a time plan for every part of my thesis and stated that the literature review will be always in parallel with my research at Novo Nordisk and my experiments at Helix Lab. Nevertheless, as quite often happens in life, things don’t go as planned. I had a delay in starting my experiments because of a part of equipment that had to be replaced. The delivery of the part delayed one and half week because it got lost in the way. Things beyond our power happen, just stay calm, positive and use the “waiting time” for something else, such as writing or reading.

What is your overall conclusion about your stay?

Those four months were very intense. I was in two places every day with a tight schedule to follow to deliver my thesis on time. Nevertheless, all my effort was worth it, and I enjoyed every part of my stay. I always felt supported and inspired by all the people involved in the project; and I am grateful for each one of them. But most importantly I am very happy that I chose the Helix MSc fellowship, because I felt recognized for my work by Novo Nordisk, UCPH and the Helix Lab. When you dedicate almost all your time in those four months for your project, it feels nice to realize that you have provided good suggestions/results that the industry is willing to implement in their processes.

How was the applying process?

The applying process was very straight forward. I had a meeting with my professor from UCPH to discuss possible thesis projects. He proposed me to do a Helix Fellowship and presented me the topic he had. Then, I had a meeting with the supervisor from Novo Nordisk to discuss further about the project. After agreement we filled and signed the Helix Fellowship form.

Going to the Helix Lab you must live in Kalundborg - how did that go?

There are a lot of outdoor activities in Kalundborg, and it is inhibited by a lot of students, meaning that it is very easy to socialize. In addition, Copenhagen is only 1hr and 15min away.

How did you find a place to stay?

It is a part of the Helix Fellowship contract that the Helix Lab is providing the accommodation (without the need of paying rent, only to pay a deposit) during the duration of the thesis. It is a very nice, new, and furnished, one room apartment (more like a studio), including its own bathroom and kitchen. The accommodation is part of Kalundborg Kollegiet, where the Absalon University students live as well. Overall, I enjoyed living there very much.

What came out of your work?

In my opinion it was a successful collaboration between the University of Copenhagen, Novo Nordisk and the Helix Lab. The master thesis project not only offered me significant knowledge and experience, but also gave me the chance to contribute to the scientific and industrial knowledge. Due to the project:


  • There is a systematic analysis of the current state of the CIP process at a specific step of the production.
  • The investigation of the current industrial design can be used as a reference to propose new design improvements for future CIP instalments.
  • The proposed potential strategies for optimizing CIP process have been scheduled to be tested in industrial scale at the next validating period of CIPs.
  • There is a better understanding of the CIP process, which can assist in further research related to that field.

What would your advice be to future fellows?

The Helix Master Fellowship is a great experience, which will lead you towards the next steps of your future career. You have already run most of the marathon, embrace yourself to finish the last miles.


Communications officer at UCPH FOOD Lene Hundborg Koss, lene.h.koss@food.ku.dk


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