It is a pleasure to write this report for the EAN and to share my personal experience with my European Colleagues.
I applied for the EAN scientific fellowship near the end of my residency program in Neurology. I have always been interested in research but this was my first proper involvement in the lab. The Neurologic Clinic of Bologna has a long lasting tradition on the study of sleep disorders, and particularly Narcolepsy and autoimmune related sleep disorders. Therefore I decided to combine these two aspects and to study the autoimmune hypothesis in Narcolepsy in one of the most famous Lab for antibody-mediated neurological diseases, the Neuroimmunology Lab of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience in Oxford. Under the experienced supervision of Professor Angela Vincent, I have progressively acquired several techniques in the lab. Soon I became independent enough to test the presence of antibodies in the serum and CSF of patients with narcolepsy and other sleep disorders by cell based assays, immunohistochemistry on rat brain sections and immunofluorescence on cultured rat hippocampal neurons.
Besides the science I learned several other things from my experience in the lab. I learned to be patient, I learned how to cope with the frustration of failing experiments and finding negative results. However, I’ve also learned that when you finally have a positive result, or when you observe something unexpected, that is one of the best feeling in the world. That is why I decided to start a PhD and I am currently in Oxford to continue my research in the field maintaining the collaboration between the Bologna and the Oxford University.
During my year in Oxford I had the chance to experience more than science. Walking through the historical and characterful streets separating the college Buildings, one has the impression that time has stood still. However, besides the academic life, Oxford has a very lively cultural and social world and a vibrant music scene. It is very easy to socialize in Oxford and I was lucky enough to meet wonderful people who enriched me as a human being and as a scientist.
I have to thank the EAN again for giving me and other young neurologists the opportunity to have such a great experience and for encouraging the exchange and integration between european clinicians and researchers.
Dr. Maria Pia Giannoccaro works at the IRCCS Bologna, Ospedale Bellaria, Italy