Maria Carmen Martin Alonso (Department of Bioengineering), MIT Summer 2017

Maria Carmen Martin Alonso at MITI would have never expected an eight-week summer placement to be as enjoyable and insightful as my time was at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This summer, I had the great opportunity to work alongside cutting-edge researchers whilst experiencing life at a top-US university.

My supervisor, a 1st year postdoc, became my mentor both academically and personally. Not only did he teach me about his research and all the tips to master the lab work, but he also gave me advice regarding possible career choices and graduate school. It was a pleasure to be able to work with such a creative individual, full of ideas and ambitions and who was, to say the least, hoping to revolutionize the field. Likewise, he was my go-to-person for the best eats and trips around MIT. The best Boston seafood restaurants, Korean BBQ kitchens and New York steaks were no longer a mystery. He also introduced me to baseball and always managed to find the best deals to the matches of the famed Boston Red Sox.

Being part of the MIT community was an incredible experience and did not cease after lab hours. I had the opportunity to interact with other lab groups through Journal Clubs and meetings and to meet current MIT students, with whom I became close friends. Even though clubs and societies were a lot quieter during the Summer compared to throughout the year, I greatly enjoyed joining the Salsa group that was still very active and met regularly in open spaces to practice.

I was fortunate to encounter some great people from Imperial and Oxford University with whom to share this experience, and with whom I hope to have forged long-lasting relationships. In addition to working hard in the lab, we managed to find enough time to explore Boston and to travel a bit together.

Boston is certainly a great place to be during the summer. It is not only home to one of the greatest intellectual and academic hubs worldwide, shared between MIT and Harvard University. It is also a lively city, packed with free music performances from Berklee College of Music students, a renowned capital for Jazz Music and home to plentiful outdoor performances and events that accompany the warm and sunny weather. The city is also close to New York City and Cape Cod. These were our two destinations of choice for a weekend. Even if they were vastly different, they both became unforgettable trips. 

Looking back, I feel that I have contributed significantly to my group’s research. In doing so, I have developed a greater sense of self-confidence, having to take responsibilities and perform to high standards given the high expectations of my work. This I hope will help me better adapt and perform professionally in the future. At a personal level, this international opportunity helped me broaden my horizons and clarified my future direction. Without this exchange, I would not have considered applying to the US for graduate school and would not be aware of some very interesting programs available to graduates, that I am now hoping to pursue.

"this international opportunity helped me broaden my horizons and clarified my future direction"