One of the greatest peculiarities of the I-CONN network is the potential for exchanging knowledge between people from different backgrounds and institutes. Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) are expected to have secondments (a temporary transfer of work institution). The proposal is that ESRs travel and work in other institutions. However, we were affected by the pandemic and many of these secondments were virtual so far.
I had the opportunity of doing a secondment in person at the University of Vienna last summer. It was the first time I left Durham (UK) since my PhD project started. I met other ESRs and PIs in person, finally!
Figure 1. ESRs in Vienna
Before going to the University of Vienna and meeting Ronny Pöppl, I proposed to work mainly on setting up my model to explore functional connectivity. My main goal was to discuss with Ronny options to evaluate Functional or Structural Connectivity (FC and SC).
In my first week, I had a meeting with Ronny to discuss my project. I showed him my model and explained the details of my research. We discussed some ideas of how to use the model and how to evaluate FC or SC.
In the next few weeks, I used to go to the university almost every day. I progressed on improving the code to set up the model. During the secondment, my main progress was in my coding skills (Python). More about my simulations will come in another post!
The secondment experience stimulated me in different ways. First, the change of work environment renewed me and encouraged me to work more. I felt refreshed to work as if I had just started my project again. I have to say that starting a PhD virtually while I was in another continent (I was stuck in Brazil for 7 months due to the pandemic) wasn’t easy. So the secondment gave me another chance to start it right.
Second, the exchange of knowledge and informal conversations with other researchers (especially Ronny Pöppl and John Perez) brought me new ideas for my project. It was also good to see how other research groups work together. Moreover, I had a field trip in a river catchment at the Thayatal National Park, at the border of Austria and the Czech Republic. I visited this catchment to see its potential to be used as a study area to my project. The catchment has some peculiarities that make it more complicated to be studied (the river is impacted by human actions, such as dams and some roads), although it has the advantage of having grain size data available. I discussed with Ronny and the choice of using this study area was left open. Anyway, it’s always interesting to be in a new environment and a new river system.
Figures 2. Field trip to the Kajabach. From top to bottom: drone flight; drainage basin outlet; Kajabach river; and dam.
Finally, living in Vienna for a short period was great. I enjoyed a lot the city, the Danube River and island, the mountains around the city and mainly the people that I met! I had a great time there. I would like to say thanks to everyone who contributed to this!
Figures 3. From top to bottom: view of Vienna from a mountain (you can see vineyards, the Danube river and the city centre; cycling with friends in the centre; and more vineyards and hills.
I think the main progress on my research due to the secondment was discussing with Ronny about how to use the model, some details that I need to be careful with my research and ideas of how to calculate SC or SC. I came back to Durham intending to continue to talk to Ronny anytime when I think it can be useful.
In summary, the secondment brought me a renewal of ideas, increasing motivation and productivity in my work, as well as my wellbeing.
Figure 4. View from the plane departing from Vienna. See you soon!