Carla Winter (SEAS '16) on the Mitchell Scholarship

A version of this was originally posted by the US-Ireland Alliance for the Mitchell Scholars blog.

As an aspiring physician-scientist, a common question I get asked by friends and family at home is why I would want to come to Ireland for my gap year. When people think of Ireland, they generally picture the magnificent culture, landscape, music, and arts available here. Yes, these are all great perks of being in Ireland. But if you look past the amazing culture and beautiful landscapes of Ireland, you can see that the scientific and biomedical opportunities available here make spending a year in Ireland make sense for someone in the scientific or medical community.

Ireland has such great biomedical research opportunities that I actually knew of NUI Galway’s Regenerative Medicine Institute before I knew about the Mitchell Scholarship. With Ireland’s first human use stem-cell manufacturing facility, NUI Galway is a global player in the field of regenerative medicine. Knowing what a great opportunity working with researchers at NUIG would be, I looked into opportunities that would allow me to pursue studies here and found the Mitchell Scholarship. Since arriving here, I’ve been continually impressed by the research being done at this university, and further surprised by the biomedical opportunities even outside of the university. For example, something I didn’t know before arriving here was that Galway and the surrounding area is a huge hub for biotech and medical device companies such as Boston Scientific.

Outside of the specific academic programs and biomedical opportunities Galway has to offer, however, simply studying in a different glocal university is a tremendous opportunity. Being in this different cultural and academic setting is crucial to grow as both an individual and scholar because of the different perspective it offers. For example, I have the opportunity to work in a vastly multicultural setting in the lab I work in – my supervisor is Irish, my PI is from India, the post-doc I am working with is from Spain, and there are countless other cultures being represented in lab.

My experience in lab has shown me how research is done in many parts of the world and likewise forges a relationship between the US and global standards. Contrary to popular belief, advancement in science doesn’t only occur by sitting alone at a lab-bench – advancement in science comes from collaboration between scientists. By allowing me to bring my skills and scientific approaches to Ireland, the Mitchell Scholarship will allow me to force an alliance in science between the US and Ireland.

Carla Winter (SEAS '16) is currently a first year medical student at Harvard Medical School. Before starting medical school, Carla studied in Ireland on the Mitchell Scholarship from 2016-2017. In Ireland, Carla pursued an MSc in Regenerative Medicine and completed a thesis on developing an in vitro model of inflammation following spinal cord injury.

The views expressed in contributed blog posts belong solely to the indicated author and do not necessarily respresent those of the Center for Undergraduate Research & Fellowships or those of the University of Pennsylvania.