ISSI 2016 Guest Blogger: Alessandro Giovannone

Alessandro Lab Resized
Alessandro with his lab partner

In the second of our series of guest blogs exploring the experiences of participants in this year’s Dr Bessie Lawrence International Summer Science Institute, it is the turn of Alessandro Giovannone who attended Warwick School.  

Alessandro Giovannone’s ISSI Experience

Well, I’m not usually one for hyperbole, but that truly was an unforgettable experience. Having properly reflected on the Dr. Bessie Lawrence International Summer Science Institute, I can now appreciate just how privileged we were to take part in such a unique programme. 

The main attraction for applying was, of course, the chance to spend a month in a world-class research institute, the Weizmann Institute of Science to give it a name, amongst some of the most extraordinary scientists the recruiting team can get their hands on. Here reside legends such as Ada Yonath, whose pioneering work led to the discovery of the structure of the ribosome, and a Nobel Prize to her name. 

My own experience was no less exciting, as I was working on an unpatented G-Protein Coupled Receptor in the brain that has a potential role as a drug target to treat various neurological disorders. I even, somehow, managed to write a proper report, once I’d actually worked out what exactly was going on. All under the watchful eye of my mentor, I was introduced to fascinating new analytical techniques and equipment that my school could only dream of acquiring.

Perhaps the best part of the research was that I was lucky enough to be sharing the project with one of the delegates from Canada. In fact, everyone had at least one lab partner, which really helped to gel the group from the start. We really didn’t need much encouragement, though, as everyone was so friendly and welcoming and genuinely interested in each other’s countries and cultures. There were sixteen different ones to learn about after all. Being a Brit meant that I had to oblige everyone the Brexit conversation more than enough times, but it was worth it to learn about the many lakes in Switzerland, the funny things the Dutch eat for breakfast and Australian drop bears.

It was so much fun getting to know everyone really well over the course of the month and by the end, everyone was really quite close. We even managed to sneak in a few evenings out in the town of Rehovot to really cement our newfound friendships. I would personally recommend the first bar you come to as you walk into Rehovot from the Institute. They do very nice cocktails. Joking aside, I can definitely say I know I would be welcome to visit each and every one of the other ISSI alumni at any point in the future.

Of course, one of the greatest experiences we got to share together was the pleasure of just being in Israel itself. A country of huge political and historical significance, with history books dating back to pre-biblical times, one of the most memorable parts of the programme is going on the myriad of trips around Israel. From visiting Caesarea, an old port built by King Herod in the north, to snorkelling in the Red Sea, to hiking up the great fort of Masada at way too early o’clock, we left no stone unturned and the week we spent travelling around the desert is absolutely my favourite part of it all. Nothing brings friends together more than sharing a Nutella sandwich at six in the morning; after you’ve done an hour’s hiking.

I wish that everyone could take part in such a fantastic programme, but, alas, only those that pursue the noble sciences are worthy enough for such an opportunity. If any of this sounds remotely appealing, just go for it. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.

Read Alessandro’s full blog that he kept during his time in Israel 

Read Charlene’s guest blog 

Read Charlotte's guest blog

Read Adam's guest blog

Published: August 17, 2016

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