I was fortunate go get funding and support to travel to California during my graduate student period. While some similarities between the Norwegian and Californian west coasts made me feel vaguely familiar, the biggest change and the most exciting part of my visit at UCLA has been the inspiration and scientific maturation that comes from exposure to new ideas and excellent research.
In addition to the planned experiments and training sessions planned for my visit, I also wanted to broaden my scientific interest, and have been attending multiple interesting talks and seminars. From plant stem cell self-renewal to chick embryo gradients, the range of exciting science approaches I can learn from and get inspired by is very rewarding. Although not always directly related to my own research or favourite topics, listening to investigators who display genuine curiosity makes all the difference. This is one of the factors that unite scientist globally, our shared interests in exploring, describing and characterizing the world around us.
Before departure from Norway, I anticipated that the number of experiments run and figures prepared would be a central measure of success for my visit. Although it has been important to learn new techniques and discuss my project with the host lab, other parts of my PhD education have also been substantially enriched as a consequence of changing continents. Inspired by a community of talented students, postdocs and young group leaders here at UCLA, the broadened way I approach science and discoveries will be a central part of my continued fascination for biology. Likewise, science communication has also emerged as a novel direction for how I can contribute to public understanding of biology, health and disease. Here, inspiration to think outside the box allows young PhD-students like myself to imagine and consider alternative career paths that remain connected to discoveries and biological insight.
If you have the chance to leave the safety and familiarity of your current research institute, I urge you to go abroad to experience the global interest in exciting science. Don’t focus too much on the experiments you are supposed to do, but allow the new community to broaden you insights and inspire you to think differently about science. Go, explore and share great science!