Belvedere College - Subject Department

University of Pennsylvania Scholarship 2018

University of Pennsylvania Scholarship 2018

By David Walley, Poetry Finlay

Every year, the college offers two Transition Year students the once in a lifetime opportunity to undertake a scholarship at the Institute for Transitional Medicine and Therapeutics at the University of Pennsylvania, which is one of eight prestigious Ivy League colleges in the USA. The scholarship is possible thanks to Dr. Garret FitzGerald (OB 1968), FRS, recipient of the RDS Boyle Medal, and who runs the laboratory in the University.

When we arrived in Philadelphia, we were given a lovely warm welcome from our host families, the Harvies and Pulliams. We were both feeling very excited about what lay ahead and could not wait to embark on our American experience. Cathal was staying in Chestnut Hill, a suburb in the north Philadelphia while I was on the other side of the Delaware River, in New Jersey suburbia.

We spent our first week getting to grips with the techniques and skills that were required for our research. We practised pipetting small amounts of substances into wells and test tubes. Although this could be tedious at times, it was an essential requirement for the success of our work. Over the next two weeks I worked with Dr. Katie Theken, and carried out Quantitative PCR on mice lung tissue. Cathal was working with Dr. Soon Yew Tang and he performed a Western Blot on liver and lung cell proteins from mice.

Throughout the three weeks, Cathal and I attended Data & Journal Club, where researchers analysed and presented their work and that of others. At the end of our three weeks of research in the lab, we too got the opportunity to present our research projects to our fellow students, lab researchers and host families. The symposium was also streamed live on the Penn website, which our families watched proudly from Dublin.

We also had some spare time to do some fun activities and see the sites that Philly has to offer. In the first week, we headed downtown to do some shopping on Walnut Street. The area had a great atmosphere and you could shop till you drop! The next evening, we headed to the funky Spruce Harbour Park on the banks of the Delaware. As Cathal headed off to Ocean City to stay at the Harvie’s Beach house, my host Aidan and I spent the Friday evening walking around Fairmount Park and saw the famous Boathouse Row. Over the weekend, Cathal caught some rays on the Jersey Shore while I headed up north to the Big Apple aka New York City.

We would like to sincerely thank the College, Headmaster and staff, particularly Yvonne O’Brien and Louise Deane, who facilitate the scholarship programme and organise the trip. On the other side of the pond, we would like to thank Dr. Garret FitzGerald and Dr. Tilo Grosser for taking such great care of us throughout our stay. We are also indebted to Dr. Soon Yew Tang, Dr. Katie Theken, Dr. Emanuela Ricciotti and Kayla Barekat for the huge amount of knowledge and encouragement they provided. Last but not least, our hosts deserve a special mention for their wonderful, warm hospitality – their houses were truly like homes from home. This trip would not have been possible without the help of all these wonderful, committed, and inspirational people.

Finally, we would urge all students who are interested in science to apply for the scholarship. For us, it has been our best experience in Belvedere to date which nothing can surpass. In previous Belvederians, the Penn scholarship has been described as the most coveted award in the College, and after our experience we couldn’t agree more.

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