My enthusiasm for medical research coupled with my love for travel meant that an eight-week research placement in Tokyo, Japan was the perfect way to spend the summer after my third year of Medicine at RCSI.
I was fortunate to be placed in the largest department at Hoshi University, the Department of Pharmacology, led by the charismatic Professor Minoru Narita. He encouraged me to explore all ongoing projects which encompassed cancer, pain, palliative care and a lot of neuroscience! My project focused on the effect of hypothalamic POMC (pro-opiomelanocortin) and dopaminergic neurones on tumour growth using DREADD systems. The results were quite exciting and I am extremely grateful to have been a part of this research which can potentially impact cancer treatment.
Our host university ensured that we got a taste of Japanese culture by including us in club activities. We experienced a Japanese tea ceremony, took part in Karate and Kyudo and played the koto, a traditional Japanese instrument (I must admit, it was quite difficult!).
I capitalised on my weekends, using my spare time to visit many of Tokyo's must-see temples and parks. I even got the chance to ride the bullet train to Kyoto where I visited Kinkakuji, the Golden temple and the infamous torii gates at the Fushimi Inari shrine. The ultimate adventure was climbing Mt Fuji, the tallest mountain and one of 20 world heritage sites in Japan.
Without a doubt, reaching the peak at 3776m was a highlight of the trip and will most likely become a story I will tell for years to come.
In fact, this entire experience will be something that I will talk about for the rest of my life. I have lived for two months in a country where English is not widely spoken, adapting to a culture that is different in more ways than one (I still bow and blurt out random Japanese words, even here in Ireland!).
I have seen advanced research laboratories filled with motivated and hard-working scientists, all hoping to make a positive contribution to healthcare. Most importantly, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the most genuine people with whom I hope to keep long-lasting friendships.
It was truly a remarkable two months and I sincerely thank RCSI for this invaluable opportunity.
Dr Shenelle Samodee, Undergraduate Medicine, Class of 2018