Secondment from GUF, Frankfurt, Germany to NUIG, Galway, Ireland

ESR6 – Nicole McCarthy

Exchange period: from  Nov 2017 to Feb 2017

I did a secondment for 4 months at the Apoptosis Research Centre (ARC at the National University of Ireland, Galway. I did my undergraduate degree at NUIG and I was more than excited to return following my four wonderful years in Galway, a city that already had a piece of my heart. Of course my experience in Galway this time round was slightly different to that of my undergraduate years. Naturally, I spent a lot more time in the lab and was living a pretty structured routine, but that’s not to say I didn’t have a fair share of social occasions with my fellow lab members. From ice skating, to the Galway Christmas market, to lab dinners and to the NUIG postgraduate ball, I enjoyed my time outside the lab as much as I did inside.

A few members of the Samali/Gorman group enjoying ice skating

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The Samali/Gorman group enjoying some well-deserved drinks at the Biochemistry Christmas party

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NUIG postgraduate ball fun! The best send off for my secondment!

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After completing a year of my PhD already I was fairly confident in my ability to work in a lab and I naively thought that continuing my research in another lab would be a piece of cake. This however, was not the case. I was surprised at how another lab could have such different methods and practices. It took me a while to get used to it but I was in the swing of it in no time. I now have a wider range of skill sets than I would otherwise have had if I had never went on secondment. The change in workplace, although a shock, has given me an insight into how other labs work and definitely prepares me to expect the unexpected when I move on to different things further down the line.


My Frankfurt lab is highly equipped for the measurement of cell death and cell viability and mainly focuses on cell death signalling pathways so it was a nice change to go to a lab that focused more specifically on ER stress and the UPR. During my secondment my aim was to acquire new molecular and cellular techniques to study the basal level of the UPR in cell lines we regularly use in Frankfurt. Some of the newer techniques that I became familiar with were reverse transcriptase PCR and clonogenic assays. It was nice to work closely with people who are studying similar molecular pathways as me. I learned a lot from the regular seminars on ER stress related topics, small grouped weekly lab meetings and open discussions that we had in the lab that I would not normally have in Frankfurt. During my time there I also had the opportunity to work with bioinformaticians who helped me analyse publically available data sets and also introduced me to R studio, the statistical software used to analyse gene expression data.

Galway as I’ve mentioned is a wonderful city, however, I had forgotten about the amount it rains there (I think I may have blocked this from my memories). Being there for the winter months of November to January definitely isn’t the most appealing time to be in Galway, I’d say it rained nearly every day I was there for 4 months!! I was also unlucky enough to have to deal with an unusual amount of storms and red weather warnings while I was there ; storm Ophelia, storm Fionn, storm Emma and the Beast from the East just to name a few! But hey I guess one of the reasons it is so green and pretty is because of the rain so we can’t complain too much. When the sun did shine though on those few rare occasions, Galway was as beautiful as I remembered it!

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Because I was fortunate enough to return home to my native country for my secondment, not only did I get to spend a lot more time with friends from Galway but I got to spend a lot of time visiting and spending time with my relatives which was very nice after living away in Germany for the year previous. My younger siblings were also more than delighted to have me back for a while.

Me with my two sisters Caitlin and Caoimhe who were more than happy to see me more often during my time back in Ireland.

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Fellow Biomedical Science Graduates enjoying the Galway nightlife together, reliving our college memories!

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My fondest memory of my secondment in Galway will have to be the people in the Biomedical Science building at NUIG. I thoroughly enjoyed working with people from ARC as well as having regular communication with other groups in the building. From discussing science to having lunches together every day I truly have made some great friends. Everybody was always so nice and friendly and they never failed to put a smile on my face even when experiments weren’t always working out the best (as some of you well know). Another huge bonus was finally getting to work in close proximity with some of my fellow TRAINERS, Aitor, Brian and Chetan. I will be forever grateful at how welcoming, kind and helpful everyone was in the Samali/Gorman group in ARC. The close guidance from my superiors and the support from my fellow researchers made the whole experience a lot more enjoyable so for that I must thank each and every person from the group.  I learned a whole new level of skills and workplace traits that I will carry with me for the rest of my scientific career and I sincerely appreciate that.

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