In March I left the snow-capped hills of Dublin for some much needed Spanish Vitamin D. The Barcelona sunshine was calling and my pale Irish face was eager to obtain a freckle or two. Between PhD and Postdoc I have been in an academic bubble for over a decade. Never before have I experienced laboratory work in industry so I was keen participate in the 3D NEONET secondments and join the ranks of Xenopat in Barcelona to see if the grass is greener in industry.
I was looking forward to a month of delicious tapas, good wine and sunshine. I was trying not to focus on the main reason I was there as the experimental work involved animal models which left me slightly apprehensive. While I had the necessary animal theory in my repertoire I was yet to actually hold a mouse, which is probably the reason why I was dreaming of mice before even arriving in Xenopat!!
I was welcomed into Xenopat with open-arms and two kisses (we are on the continent after all!!). It was straight to business on my first day at the office in Parc Cientific learning about the importance of randomising the animals for drug treatments and fine-tuning the experimental setup for the month ahead. The next day involved a trip to the Catalan Institute of Oncology and to the animal facility. Luckily for me, Dr Rosa Bosch had the patience of a saint and over the course of the month I received fantastic training in animal handling. It was not long into the secondment before I was managing to independently carry out the necessary tasks required for the project.
The 1-month secondment flew by and while everyone back home was tucking into their Easter eggs on Easter Sunday, Rosa, Alberto and I were finishing the experiment and celebrating afterwards with a much needed ice cold beverage.
The 3D NEONET secondment was an excellent opportunity to gain additional laboratory skills and experience firsthand what it is like to work in an industry environment. Even more beneficial was the experience of working and living in another country and culture. I decided to make the most of my month in Barcelona and participate in a range of different fitness activities. I spotted an advertisement in an Irish bar (clichéd I know but I had to have dinner somewhere!) for ‘Midnight Runners Barcelona’. A weekly 10km boot camp through the streets of Barcelona. This was just what I needed to facilitate my daily cafe con leche and pastry intake (the pastries in Barcelona are so good!!!). I also decided to try some new fitness ventures and joined Rosa for a few Capoeira classes where I got to meet some wonderful people. In order to keep in touch with my sport back home I participated in some training sessions with the Barcelona Gaels Gaelic Football Club. Between the sunshine, variety of extra-curricular activities, and the lifestyle, Barcelona is certainly a place I could see myself living long-term. That in itself was great to learn from the secondment.
So after a month of savouring the blue skies, my one or two freckles and I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the 3D NEONET secondment. I was able to complete my research project to an industry standard and experience the Barcelona lifestyle. The people of Xenopat and Barcelona have ensured it is a place I will most certainly return to and hopefully stay for a bit longer next time.
Muchas gracias 3D NEONET for facilitating such a wonderful experience.