I can’t believe first semester is already over — time flies when you’re keeping busy and constantly experiencing new things! The pace of coursework has picked up, especially as more and more assignments are handed out and the pressure of last-minute cramming for final exams has been felt. I’ve also started working on my thesis project. In a nutshell, I’ll be researching tissue engineered blood vessels. My project will involve seeding cells onto different materials (small intestinal submucosa and urinary bladder matrix, for the science minds), exposing the engineered vessels to flow in a bioreactor, and observing the response of the cells and the materials to see if they could be used as substitutes for arterial vessels. At the moment, I’ve been reading journal articles to see what’s been done in the past and what I can do with my project, but I’m planning to start expanding cells soon. I can’t wait to work in a lab again.
The time spent planning for trips has started to pay off. In November, I went to London and Paris, where I hopped on and off the Tube and lived off of delicious food from French bakeries. For Christmas break, I went to fifteen cities in 24 days. First, I met up with three other Mitchell Scholars for a Christmas market extravaganza through Germany and Austria. I sipped warm mulled wine in the cold, snowy weather, experienced cars whizzing by at what seemed like breakneck speed on the Autobahn, and, of course, shopped my way through Christmas markets in Nuremburg, Rothenburg, Salzburg, and Munich. Then, another friend and I met up to travel through Italy, Great Britain, and Ireland together. I traded Irish beer for Italian wine, spent Christmas Eve at midnight Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and New Year’s Eve at Big Ben in London, and wandered my way through beautiful little towns like Verona, Bath, and Kilkenny. Though I had a wonderful time traveling and exploring, I was looking forward to returning to Limerick after a tiring whirlwind trip.
I’ve still got a lot in store for the New Year. It’s hard to believe that I only have two weeks of classes left in my program. The rest of the time will be filled with more assignments, more research, more exams, and more travel. I’m looking forward to getting to know more people in Limerick, meeting up with the other Mitchell Scholars, and continuing to learn and grow from my experiences in Ireland.