I don’t want to sound hackneyed and begin my blog by emphasizing on the fact how quickly time has flown by, but it really is unbelievable that it has already been over a year, since I became part of the FoodSmartphone project.
On one hand I still have a pretty clear memory of all the feelings that I had and the thoughts that were going through my mind during the first day of the Summer school in Wageningen, but on the other hand so many things have happened since then that make it feel like a lifetime ago. This paradox of a feeling made me take a step outside of the research bubble that I have been caught up in lately and reflect on all the actions of this past year. The first thing that came to my mind is how incredibly grateful I am to be a part of a project that allows me to do research, while also getting to discover this beautiful world that we live in. And then the second thought popping into my head was, that one year is already gone and we only have two more to go. During this remaining time we will have to do even more experiments and bibliography, go to more courses and conferences, write papers, etc. Thinking about all of this makes me feel overwhelmed sometimes, so in order to remain calm I am trying to take it step by step without getting too stressed, but also keeping the final goal of the project in the back of my mind.
Kayaking in beautiful Congost de Mont Rebei
One of the hardest parts of being an MSCA fellow for me is living far from my friends and family, constantly having to think in other languages and not being able to share my adventures with my loved ones. Even though everyone is really nice and welcoming here, obviously they all have their separate lives outside of the lab, so I would be lying by saying that I don’t feel alone at times. In order to overcome this feeling, I am trying to make a conscious effort to be more social by participating in more events and activities.
One really great opportunity for this purpose was the MSCA Satellite Event of the ESOF conference in Toulouse last month. It was a 2 day event especially held for MSCA students. It ended up being a really diverse group of people, since the participants were not only from different parts of the world, but also in projects from various different fields, such as biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, informatics, robotics, literature, history, psychology and so on. I had a really great time getting to know new people, hearing about their research and also discussing about the ups and downs of the expat life. Despite our ethnical and scientific backgrounds we had so many things in common, we all felt part of a community, and it is all thanks to the unique fellowships of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Association. Since Toulouse is just a couple hour train drive away from Barcelona, I have met several people from the city with whom I am intending to keep in contact in the future, too.
The most important sessions of the event were on transferable skills such as “How to engage with policy-makers” and “How and where to best present your research”. These two topics are part of a set of introductory training modules available to all MSCA fellows on the new online platform named MSCA Learning Hub (to be launched in September, so keep an eye on it). I have found it incredibly beneficial to listen to the stories and advices of researchers, who have several years of experience in these topics. Another really interesting part of the Satellite event was the so called “speed dating” session. During this activity 15 round tables were set up in the room and every table had a leader, who had the task to explain his research project in 5 minutes and then the listeners around the table had the chance to ask questions about their research or about tips on how to present, etc. After 10 minutes the leaders rotated to another table, explaining their research to another group of listeners and so on. For me the most advantageous part was to hear about the tools of communication you can use when you are explaining your research. It was also interesting to get tips on how your presentation should change depending on your target audience, since I have indeed encountered the difficulty of having to explain my research to people without a scientific background in an entertaining way in a short amount of time.
The MSCA Satellite Event in Toulouse
So in conclusion, my suggestion to all my fellow ESRs would be to keep an eye on the upcoming MSCA activities and events (the next one will be in the beginning of October in Vienna: https://www.msca2018.eu/), to join the Marie Curie Alumni Association (if you are not already a part of it), and to check out their online platform (from September onwards), because it will offer a lot of courses that could be valuable for the development of our transferable skills. It would be really nice to meet you guys at one of these events, furthermore you would also have a chance to connect with other MSCA fellows located in your city/country.
Little sightseeing around Barcelona: Monastir de Pedralbes and Begur
Coming back from the summer school, my main focus this past month has been on the continuation of my experiments with different screen printed electrodes, exploring their properties and getting reproducible measurements, meanwhile also reading up on possible configurations I could use for my assays.
And now I am eager to start my vacations from tomorrow, to get some rest and return to the lab fully recharged and with a fresh mind set.
Wishing you all an amazing summer holiday and until next time,