U.S. 2012-2013 Fulbright Research Fellows in the scientific and technical fields convened on Monday, May 20th for a three-day session in Madrid and Barcelona to explore Spain’s premier research facilities. Seven pre-doctoral researchers from Madrid, Barcelona, and Cadiz studying in fields ranging from Neuroscience to Organic Chemistry Synthesis participated in the seminar. We traveled to private and public research institutions where staff members at both the research and operational levels presented their research activities and elucidated their institutions’ position within Spain’s scientific community. These laboratories included: CIEMAT, CNB, Pharmamar, CRESIB, ISGlobal, the CosmoCaiza Foundation, and the Center for Genomic Regulation (CGR).
The interactive presentations by experts in their respective fields touched on issues ranging from Maternal, Infant and Reproductive Health in Malarial Disease to the genetic underpinnings of Fanconi Anemia. We even got to see a piece of the Amazon at the Barcelona CaixaForum. Q & A sessions with professors, scientific coordinators, and senior researchers fed our inquisitive minds with a plethora of unanswered research questions, followed by opportunities for U.S. students to work in Spain and solve these questions in the future. Newly emerging educational training programs, such as the Masters in Global Health offered by ISGlobal and the University of Barcelona, the first Global Health institution in Spain, also captivated us with their interdisciplinary scope. Through these sessions, we were reminded that diseases do not respect geographical boundaries and that we should not allow professional boundaries to deter our ability to promote and to apply scientific innovation, wherever the threat of disease lies.
“If you want to keep a secret, publish it in a journal,” said Dr. Plasencia, Deputy Director of CRESIB, in reference to ISGlobal’s focus on knowledge transmission, “there is a need for advocacy and public debate to stir changes in health policies.” As Fulbright Fellows, we have a first hand view of the globalized world we live in. As scientists and global citizens, we see the need for policy makers to make informed decisions. The world is growing smaller, its boundaries becoming blurred and more interconnected. The changing face of the Spanish research community, amidst a stringent economic diet, is indicative of its herculean effort to respond, sometimes preemptively, to the formidable challenges the world faces ahead. These talks reminded us that our current positions between the edifice of science and society gives us a unique opportunity to transmit knowledge and understanding between both worlds. Through mutual understanding disease and its vestiges buckle at the knees.
Beyond being a valuable networking opportunity, La Fundación Consejo-E.E.U.U & Fulbright España sponsored encounter introduced us researchers to the full breath of Spanish society’s commitment to scientific research and innovation; a community we are grateful to have worked alongside with for a year; a community we are inextricably bound to and hope to continue working with as we pursue our future endeavors.
Thank you again to La Fundación Consejo Espana-EE.UU & to Fulbright España for coordinating this immersion experience.