As a mechanical engineering student from Puerto Rico, conducting cancer research in Portugal was quite a change of pace
Nina explored cancer biology and a country rich in tradition

Challenge and motivation

Nina worked with a PhD student in a cancer Biology project that dealt with immunotherapy. Nina’s main goal was to help characterize a human antibody against a specific cell receptor. She did this by conducting a control experiment which would serve as a basis for her PhD’s experiments and main argument in the project. Nina's Biology research as a MechE major with 7.013 (Intro. Biology, taken a year ago) was her only background on the subject. The work was extremely interesting and the challenge motivated Nina to use her first few weeks to study more material so she could better understand the project. Through it all, she learned how to use different techniques and tools such as confocal microscopy and FACS. She learned, assisted and performed different experiments to obtain the antibody and incorporate it with the different cell lines.

History of place

Having to travel alone to a foreign country, sharing an apartment with five other people and using the metro to travel to work were some of the first challenges Nina faced when she first arrived in Portugal. Soon Nina was traveling to different parts of Portugal as well as Madrid, Spain. Nina enjoyed the energetic atmosphere of São João Festival in Porto, the vibrant plazas and streets of Lisbon, the history of Madrid, the beautiful beaches of Costa da Caparica and Cascais, the amazing university in Coimbra as well as the majestic island of São Miguel in Los Azores. Of course, she also savored the succulent and iconic pastries and dishes of Portugal such as Pasteis de Belém and the different types of cod dishes. Furthermore, she was also able to engage in various free walking tours in the different cities which allowed her to learn about the history of each place and meet new people.

Shaping future endeavors

This past summer was one of the most enriching experiences Nina has ever had. She gained new knowledge in the cancer Biology field, in different techniques and new cancer therapies. She also learned to overcome challenges in the workplace as well as daily living situations in a new country. Furthermore, she gained invaluable friendships in her lab as well as outside it as she met people and made friends from different countries such as Albania, Denmark and the Netherlands. The professional and interpersonal skills as well as memories Nina gained during these two months have left a lasting impact in her and will no doubt help shape her future endeavors. 

  • Portugal
  • Internship