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  • Ornela Bardhi

Chapter 2 - My PhD secondment in Ireland: the start of another adventure


I have relocated a lot, but none of my previous relocation has been as challenging as my relocation here in Dublin. I’ll come there in a few paragraphs.

People say the researcher’s life is boring and lonely, stuck in an office or lab and not getting out of there. While we are stuck at our offices for some time, the rest of it is either flying from one country to another for conferences, short research visits, or doing some field work. I’m doing the latter one here in Dublin.

There is a blog post published last year about Marie Curie advantages and challenges. I was in my 3rd month of my fellowship when I read it. I can say with confidence that I had experience most of things pointed out there, if not all. A MSC fellow’s journey is quite adventurous since the start.

Now fast-forward, I start my 2nd year of my PhD, and with that new challenges, experiences, knowledge, skills, obstacles, and problems to solve. I have inherited some old ones as well, such as finish writing the systematic review and finding a company, focused on applied deep learning on medical data in Europe or in USA, for a 7 months research stay (I’m open for collaborations, so message/ email me if your company is interested).

My first visit in Dublin was last year for the project’s conference. I liked Dublin then and I still like it now. It is big, and you could do a lot of things in your free time. It’s funny to say that to a researcher – Do we have free time? Sure we do, it’s just a matter of time management, and we’ve become better at it every day. What I don’t understand is why there is no metro/ underground in the main and biggest city in the country and why there isn’t any under passes, they are very helpful for people who like to walk. Some might argue Dublin is not the best place to walk, it’s rainy and windy, and the combination of these two makes walking not the best option to go around. Well, I’d like to think there are other people who think the same and I’m not alone in this.

In the morning you have sunny beautiful weather, and later in the evening you get snow. Perfect weather!

You might wonder why this relocation is more difficult to me than the previous ones. I’m doing my field work at a hospital and this is a new experience to me, and I have to say the most challenging one. It is not common for a computer engineer to work at a hospital. I’m not talking going to a hospital occasionally, but have your office and desk, and conduct your research there… for 11 months. The most frequent question I’ve been asked is what kind of research I am conducting that requires me to sit and work at a hospital for that long. Apart from ITN rules that I need to do half of my PhD outside of academia and outside of Spain, I need data. We all know that medical data is hard to find and access, that is why I am collecting it myself.

For everyone who doesn't know what my project is about: I am conducting an ethnographic study with cancer patients at a hospital. Yes, you read it correctly, ethnographic study. And yes, I am an engineer. I will be interviewing and observing patients who of course would like to participate in the project. Yesterday I received some great news: my study got approved by the ethics committee. It may sound odd, an engineer conducting a qualitative study. There shouldn’t be a one size fits all, and I’m glad I’m not part of it. Meanwhile, I’m taking online courses on biology of cancer, getting to know the hospital and the people I’ll be working with, and learning Irish (the course will start later this month, but already learning some words from locals – not an easy language).

I like making jokes, and most of them are nerdy ones. It is tough to work in an environment where you are surrounded by doctors, they do not understand engineering jokes. Well, the same goes to engineers.

I like challenges, and this is a good one. I see it as an opportunity to learn and grow as a researcher, especially if I want to continue working on interdisciplinary projects such as CATCH and tell doctor jokes after.

#catchitn #PhD #cancer #research #H2020 #MSCA #BeaconHospital

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© 2016 CATCH. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement 
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