"What a trip...it was an incredible experience."

by Pau Sole Vilaro, PWIS 2019 Scholar

What a trip. That’s all I could think of while watching a movie on the plane flying from Dulles International Airport back to the U.K. And for good reason, too.

The trip brought many firsts for me: my first time going to the States, first time being in a research centre and in an industrial drug-development centre, first time visiting and walking around Washington DC, or even first time to properly practice my American accent! It was an incredible experience.

When we first arrived, we met with Craig Pearson, an amazing and very open person who quickly set us at ease in our new environment. After getting to our hotel, we spent some time exploring the area around Bethesda to familiarise ourselves with the geography of the place. Then it was finally time to prepare for

what would come on the following day.

"We spent our week at the National Eye Institute in wonder. Meeting with the researchers and talking to them about their work was an invaluable insight..."

We visited many labs, met with many researchers, got lost once or twice and most importantly we learned about lots of interesting, pioneering scientific research. Not only that, but we also got to learn about doing research as a job and what it takes and involves, which was very interesting especially for me since I have been considering research as a potential pathway to follow in my future. Meeting with the researchers and talking to them about their work was an invaluable insight that we got from there that a lot of people don’t have access to on a daily basis. It was especially interesting to talk to post-doc students, as they were the ones that were closer to us in age and they could relate to us more with what we were going through currently in our studies and advise us based on their own experiences.

My favourite bit from our numerous trips to the NIH was visiting the research groups in the Neuroscience department, because it was a field that I had little knowledge on previously and I found it very interesting.

We also went on visits to an AstraZeneca site and to the NCATS, which was once again an amazing experience since visiting these places is not something one can do everyday. We were able to see how science can be applied and used industrially in a whole complex process, as well as meeting and talking to people that work there, which was also very interesting as they could explain to us what it is like to work in industry and how they got there. We also saw some really cool robots at work!

Our afternoons were spent on long walks around the city centre of Washington DC, a truly amazing city. Enduring the hot sun we managed to visit many monuments such as the Obelisk, and also the White House, the Capitol, Arlington Cemetery or even museums such as the Air and Space Museum and the Natural Science Museum. We even managed to go to a live Jazz show outdoors on one afternoon! It was great fun, and the Museums were especially awe-inspiring.

All in all, the trip was simply fantastic. It was very instructive but also entertaining and very pleasant, it involved meeting lots of new people and seeing many new things and places, eating good food, and best of all, getting a better insight into what my future career might hopefully look like. And this is truly invaluable. Thus, I would really like to thank the people from the Cambridge Eye Trust, AstraZeneca, Biomedical Research Alliance and the National Eye Institute for making this experience possible. One that I will surely not forget.