PhD Secondment to Seville: Studies in Salumedia, Sunshine and Spain
What is an Irish physiotherapist doing working in an eHealth technology company in Spain?
Yep, here I am, starting the second year of my PhD with a 12-month secondment to Salumedia Tecnologías in Seville. I've only been here for two weeks, but let's see if I can use what I've learnt so far to answer some FAQs…
Let’s go! OK Louise, what's a secondment?
the temporary transfer of an official or worker to another position or employment”
A secondment is where someone spends a period of time working somewhere outside of their host institution - in my case, this would be Beacon Hospital. Secondments are an important (and mandatory) part of a Marie-Curie Research Fellowship, and most researchers will do at least one or two, varying from 3-12 months approx.
So why didn't you go work in another hospital, or university?
Well, these secondments are designed to get us working across different industries (inter-sectoral work) and with different professions (inter-disciplinary), and therefore become more well-rounded, experienced researchers (hopefully!). So this is a chance for me to do something completely new, and broaden my knowledge and capabilities. We're obliged to spend 50% of our time outside of academic settings, so as I've been on secondment in UCD (University College Dublin) lately, this time I'll be working in a non-academic setting - a tech company called Salumedia Tecnologias.
Interesting concept, but how would all that affect your research?
Good question, this isn't just about developing yours truly! By getting first-hand experience of the world of health tech, I can be sure that my research makes sense not just in theory, but in practice also. Also, think of the benefits of disseminating your research in different counties, making international connections, new collaborations……
Awesome. So who are Salumedia?
Salumedia Tecnologías is a mobile health technology company that makes innovative, fun, technologies to improve health and quality of life in modern society. Check out their website here. Salumedia are a spin-out from university of Sevilla, and are heavily invested in research, development and innovation - they're involved with different EU Horizon 2020 programmes and host a network of PhD students, including some of the CATCH ITN crew.
And what will you do there?
In general, I'll be working within the team here, learning about mobile technologies, and using what I learn here to inform the technology-design process involved in my project about targeted exercise rehabilitation after surgery for breast cancer.
Yes Louise, of course I remember what your project is about...please don't explain it to me again!
Ok, moving swiftly on!
Yep. So, Seville? Oranges, tapas and sun, am I right?
You're not wrong!
Seville is the capital of Andalucia and has a population of about 700,000. It’s a beautiful city, full of history, tapas bars, beautiful architecture, flamenco…and it was named best city to travel to in 2018 by Lonely Planet! So it's a pretty amazing place to be on secondment, and I’m very happy to be here!
BRB, just booking myself a holiday to Seville….
But this whole experience must be a bit challenging too?
Yep, the language barrier can be tricky - my project work will still be through English, but day-to-day work is in Spanish, as is the rest of my life, of course! I've been learning Spanish for one year now, and I'm taking classes two evenings a week, but every day is a school day - doing a spinning class in Spanish was interesting… How do you say ‘aah my quads are burning?!’
The other main challenge is being away from Beacon Hospital and UCD. While I can stay in touch via email and Skype, you miss those chance encounters and casual conversations which often lead to good ideas! But it’s not helpful to think about what I’m not able to do - so instead I'll focus on what I CAN do here!
That's the attitude! So, what’s on the cards?!
Along with my work in Salumedia, I’ve already found a few really interesting conferences and study days to attend in Spain over the coming months, and hope to start building up a network of researchers and clinicians working in my field. Also, I’ll be wrapping up the study I did towards the end of last year, processing results and planning the next phase of my research.
And beaches, tapas and sunshine…
That goes without saying…