This summer, I spent two months in Copenhagen, Denmark, doing an internship in Neurobiology Research Unit (NRU). I have a huge passion for neuroscience, and I was very eager to find myself where the research really happens, and see the process behind the papers that I’ve been reading in my studies. Coming from Greece, a country with limited prospects in the area that interests me, I am constantly on the lookout for a city that could fulfil me professionally and emotionally in the future.
My summer activity was everything I could ask for, and more. I worked besides passionate, intelligent and extremely welcoming and helpful scientists on projects investigating human sleep, mood disorders, hallucinogenic drugs, and others. I learned a lot about how research with human participants is different to animal models, about which we mostly read in university, and became familiar with techniques such as fMRI, PET scans, and questionnaires measuring personality traits and cognitive abilities. I learned so much about the insights neuroscience can give us about human psychology and behaviour, and how scientists try to quantify such complex variables. Most importantly, I learned that academic research is what I want to pursue.
The project I was involved with the most studied the brain during sleep, and the researcher I was assisting suggested that we measure my own sleep with electrodes, so that I can experience what the participants do, and then score the patterns of my sleep myself. It was very educational, quite uncomfortable, but mostly very, very fun.
The city of Copenhagen was magical. The culture was vibrant, the architecture captivating, and the people warm and kind. Being lucky to experience the warmest summer they have had in the past 50 years, I swam in the canals in the heart of the city a lot. I was also inspired to try biking, which I had never really done before, and ended up spending endless hours on the bike exploring the neighbourhoods, parks and beaches. I am very thankful for how bike-friendly the city is, as it allowed me to find a new passion that I will hopefully keep practicing everywhere I go.
Before I left, I was stuggling quite a lot with my mental health, and I was worried about how I would manage in a completely new environment, where I couldn’t speak the language, and with the responsibilities of working within a team. I was very lucky to find myself in a woderful city with lovely people that inspired me to make the best out of each day, but also allowed me to give myself some space and time when I needed it. Hopefully, I will be back soon, and maybe for much longer.