In an exciting exchange programme MDX is participating in for the first time, groups of second year MDX Biomedical Science students are this week working on a mini-research project in labs in three different European universities. Meanwhile, students from the three universities are simultaneously tackling a similar project alongside MDX students in London.
For Biomedical Science International Week 2020, MDX students have gone to UC Leuven-Limburg in Belgium, Hanze University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands and the University of Applied Sciences for Health Professions Upper Austria. Students from University College Absalon, Denmark, are also participating in the exchange programme. A further nine MDX students are working on a research task with their international peers in the Hatchcroft Building. The students hadn't been told what the project was before the start of the week, and are spending two days in the lab and one day doing data analysis to accomplish it. For all the students, the project is their first research experience.
The exchange came about after the consortium of European universities got in touch with MDX's Erasmus Office to gauge MDX interest in participating in a grant, spoke to Senior Lecturer in Life Sciences Britta Stordal, who is also International Exchange co-ordinator for the Department of Natural Sciences, and discussions went from there.
Stordal says the project was a fantastic opportunity as it is "difficult to arrange international mobility with programmes like this which don't have electives" and because the mini-dissertation that participants have to produce gives students a suitable challenge for their first steps into the world of research.
The exchange offers students the experience of work in the lab among a highly international group of scientists with all communication in English, as would typically happen in academic or industry research. The week in London involves cross-cultural communication sessions, tours of London led by MDX students and social events, including going bowling at the O2. The programme has been sponsored by pharmaceutical research technologies provider Qiagen.
On Thursday, Laura de Bock of University College Leuven-Limburg led a research seminar, and on Friday the students made presentations of their findings at the Claddagh.
MDX student Erica Mascarenhas, who has gone to Leuven, says she's been "wanting to go on Erasmus for a very long time". Yusuf Islam, who is also in Leuven, has volunteered for MDX at WorldSkills UK LIVE in Birmingham, and this week's programme appealed to him as "another chance to represent the uni" and "meet other like-minded people".
Amina Omar, one of the MDX students doing the programme in London, says she's a very extrovert personality, and "couldn't wait until we met the exchange students, to break down barriers". Her coursemate Safia Ali says her motivation was to "get out of my comfort zone", while Carolyne Sarracino says the lab research experience with international students is a "good skill to lay on in the future. You don't get opportunities very often like this".
Victoria Egger, who studies at the University of Applied Sciences for Health Professions in Austria said: “We are more practice-related in my school and here’s it’s more research-related. It’s interesting to see different approaches to working because you look at different things".
About working at MDX with students from different countries, she said: “It’s really cool – our books are in English but I’m not that used to speaking English”
“I love London," she added. "Every time I go it’s a bit different. It’s huge, there’s so much to do and see".
Sabrina Scaletta, who studies in Limburg, said she was amazed London students commute so far on the Tube each day, and said she found her MDX experience "very friendly - a lot of tea-drinking".