My Barcelona internship involved participating in neuroscience research working in a lab at the University of Barcelona during the summer. The research topic this lab was investigating were mechanisms of learning and memory; more specifically two receptors called AMPA and NMDA located in the hippocampus, the “memory centre” of the brain. These receptors are extremely important in what’s called synaptic plasticity (the brain’s ability to change and adapt); an underlying process of learning and memory as well as cognition and emotion. My role in the internship was to shadow and assist the lab members in their ongoing research.
Before arriving I was a bit unsure of what the social and academic environment was going to be like: Would my level of knowledge, understanding and lab experience be enough? Would I fit in with the group socially despite some differences in language and culture? Already after a week I could conclude that there was no need to worry, as all the lab staff were incredibly friendly, welcoming and helpful. They helped me by teaching me the lab work, which turned out to be at a good level for me, in English, whilst having some great chats in Spanish at our communal lunch time, becoming good friends.
As I am aiming to move forward to a postgraduate degree in Neuroscience this internship has been incredibly useful, allowing me to learn many commonly used techniques such as electrophysiology and confocal microscopy. Besides the practical methods, I was also greatly involved in the planning and analysis of experiments, teaching me crucial problem solving skills. All of this is a fantastic base for my own future research, which may be on a similar topic since synaptic plasticity interests me a lot; one of the reasons I contacted this lab for an internship in the first place.
Besides the academic aspect, I of course got to enjoy a beautiful summer in Barcelona! It has lead me to be more immersed in the Spanish and Catalan culture, both in and outside the lab , as well as improve my Spanish. My free time was spent discovering the beautiful sites and museum of Barcelona, tasting all the wonderful traditional tapas. Overall this internship has been a wonderful experience, making be strongly consider to come back to the same lab for a master at University of Barcelona, or simply move there to work in the field after graduating.