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My name is Mariana Delgadinho, and I’m a Portuguese PhD student in Biomedical Sciences and a researcher currently working on several projects with Sickle Cell Disease patients from Angola. My secondment took place at the University of Illinois Chicago on the Work Package 3 from ARISE, which aims to improve laboratory diagnostics and quality assurance systems for SCD population screening.

The first few days of my secondment were dedicated to literature review about SCD genetic modifiers, particularly the CYB5R3T117S polymorphism, and attending laboratory safety and research ethics online courses.

In the laboratory, I was able to work on a very interesting project, learn new laboratory techniques and how to interpret these results. Techniques such as: western blot, preparation of hemolysates for red cell enzyme assays, hemoglobin estimation, quantification of NADH, total NAD, GSH, GSSG in blood samples by spectrophotometry.

Throughout this secondment I had the opportunity to participate in various seminars focused on sickle cell disease research, clinical trials and CRISPR. I was also able to interact with other research groups, attend weekly meetings and discuss literature suggested by our ARISE supervisors. One event that stood out for me was the fundraising event for SCD patients, where I had the opportunity to meet those families and health professionals while bowling.

Additionally, I learned a lot about science communication and how to transmit the message for different audiences. Researchers regularly present their findings among the scientific community by publishing articles in journals or presenting at conferences. Because of that we tend to talk in a very technical way. But it is crucial to know the audience, adapt the speech and simplify the information in an accurate and accessible way for the general population. This will guarantee an effective communication, which will increase the reach of our work and contribute to scientific literacy.

Overall, this secondment was career-enhancing as well as rewarding and quite successful, since all the planned activities have been completed. It was an unforgettable experience that gave me the possibility not only to learn more, but also to explore a magnificent place. Chicago is a very welcoming city with stunning buildings and beautiful parks, and several events happening during summertime. I had an amazing two months there and I will forever cherish those memories.

Finally, I’m grateful to have such wonderful hosting supervisors, who made this possible. It was an absolute pleasure working with Dr. Lewis Hsu and Dr. Binal Shah. Their knowledge and expertise helped me to learn a lot. Not only that, but their time, efforts and positive energy ensure that this secondment was remarkable and extremely fulfilling.