“This is a place where we work to advance medicine and build careers.” Those were among the first words Professor Fiona Gilbert, Head of the Department of Radiology at Cambridge, said to me over the phone. For anyone at a nascent stage of their career in medicine, the dilemma of research is not knowing whether you’ll be able to work on a project interesting to you, and not knowing whether the work you’ll be doing will be productive for both you and the lab. So when I heard those words from Professor Gilbert herself, I made up my mind right then and there that I’d be going to Cambridge for my summer internship in 2018.
What struck me as soon as I reached Cambridge is that it is truly a melting pot of intelligence – students, scholars, residents, and faculty from all parts of the globe with ideas, creativity, and excitement to progress and develop, to innovate at a pure level. I immediately felt my fit in this environment, where ideas sprung so organically from each of our conversations, where the level of intelligence, work ethic, and innovation collided into one giant positive feedback loop. My project itself, studying radiological manifestations of Gaucher’s disease, was one we discussed prior to my arrival but one that took on a new dimension as we kept talking throughout the first week. Over the subsequent 10 weeks, I learned how to utilize imaging software in a novel way and with the guidance of Cambridge radiologists was able to develop highly sensitive and specific imaging cutoffs using volume ratios and texture variables to differentiate severities of Erlenmeyer Flask Deformities and Osteonecrosis, respectively. With medicine currently transitioning into an era of machine learning, the work I was doing every day felt cutting edge, it was exciting, and it was rewarding. My experience epitomizes the freedom that visiting students are offered at Cambridge – to conceptualize and execute the type of project they’d like to work on, limited only by the confines of their own brains and by the technical skillsets each of them possesses.
My recollection of Summer 2018 at Cambridge would not be complete, however, without a mention of my experiences beyond the lab. You’d be hard pressed to find another place that encourages learning beyond the lab as much as the Department of Radiology at Cambridge. Case in point: One of the first lunch conversations with my superiors was about the knowledge that could be acquired through travel, how affordable Ryanair flights are to other European countries, and how accessible London Stansted Airport was from Cambridge. By the time I’d finished my internship 10 weeks later, I’d visited Switzerland, Spain, France, Monte Carlo, and Wimbledon across multiple weekends, spending less than 200 pounds per trip. What I’ll say from my experience is this – just like the projects you’ll be working on in the lab, your ability to travel will be limited only by the confines of your own brain (and how you spend the money you’ve saved up).
Ultimately, if you are someone looking to expand beyond your comfort zone and work in an environment that believes in advancing medicine and advancing careers through individual autonomy, the Department of Radiology at Cambridge is one of the best places in the world to visit for the summer. You won’t regret it for one second, and you’ll look back on it as an incredibly productive and enjoyable summer in the early stages of your career.
Special thanks to Dr Josh Kaggie, Dr James MacKay, Dr Patrick Deegan, and Dr Scott McDonald for supervising me and making it a rich, happy learning environment.