by Maria Lieto
It has been a great honour for me to be awarded with the EAN Research fellowship.
The EAN Research Experience Fellowship allowed me to spend more than one year at the Oxford University, in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG). It has been a life changing experience for me.
I had the opportunity to carry out a project entitled “Unravelling the molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis in Spinal and Bulbar Muscular Atrophy” under the supervision of Dr. Carlo Rinaldi. It was very exciting working alongside the team and, above all, doing something for patients for whom there is no etiologic treatment.
I mainly had a clinical background and so I started by learning very basic laboratory techniques such as PCR, Western Blot, cell culture. Then, thanks to the endless patience of my supervisor and of the team, who have always made things very easy, I progressively gained confidence even in more advanced technical skills.
Every week we organized a lab group meeting where everyone presented their own data. I found those meetings extremely informative, useful and constructive. I had the chance not only to take part in some of them showing my results but also to learn about the main projects ongoing in the lab. Most of the groups were focused on Spinal Muscular Atrophy and Muscular Dystrophies. I found it a good way to share thoughts, doubts, experiences and to help and be helped.
Moreover, almost every week interesting lectures about Neuroscience from prestigious international researchers took place.
My time there couldn’t have been more exciting. People in the lab were not just colleagues but we were like a big family. In addition, Oxford is the perfect city not only to live, even if it is very expensive, but also to be inspired to perform excellent research.
I strongly encourage my colleagues to apply for international fellowship programs of EAN, an important chance to improve professional and personal skills. I believe that the time spent in Oxford has been fundamental for my professional growth and has helped me move forward in my career greatly. Indeed, being surrounded by world leading experts in different areas, I have been able to work closely with outstanding scientists and clinicians and learn how to develop a critical mind and to do science at a high level. Other than giving me the chance to broaden my knowledge on neuromuscular diseases, during the course of this year I have been able to build a good contact network for the future.
I would love to thank the EAN for giving me this opportunity, for their support and help, and to express my gratitude to all the people I met during this time and especially to Dr. Carlo Rinaldi who has been the greatest mentor I could have had.