By now, most of the ATWARM fellows have finished their projects, while the remaining, are well on the way to finishing up. As the last fellow to contribute to the ATWARM blog, I think it is a great opportunity to sum up the last three years, from my experience.
There is no doubt that the Marie Curie Fellowships are one of the most prestigious actions for European researchers who wish to spend time in a European country different than their own to develop research skills. The strong competition between motivated and skilled candidates from all over Europe is a huge challenge.
The training objectives and the experience of working in a multi disciplinary research environment (Including language and geographical) has had a major positive influence by reinforcing our professional skill set as researchers, increasing the scope of our competences and individual improving our overall research quality for the next challenges that lie ahead.
The ATWARM Marie Curie Action contributed greatly to the development of our careers on many different levels. First of all, it allowed us to do research abroad at high-quality host institutions such as Queens University, Cranfield University, University of Duisburg-Essen, Dublin City University and TE Laboratories. This exposure increased our knowledge in fields of science that we had previously limited experience. In addition it has added to our personal development, through various work cultures, which in some cases, have been different from the one that we were used to. Although the beginning may have been challenging, the overall experience of living in a new country – Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany or Northern Ireland was invaluable.
An important impact of this fellowship came from disseminating scientific information in terms of methodologies and results. In this context, the Marie Curie ATWARM fellowship has supported our attendance at scientific seminars, conferences and courses around the world significantly. The ATWARM members have had opportunities to attend scientific meetings not only within Europe (Spain, Italy, Portugal, France, Belgium, Germany), but also globally, such as the United States, Australia, China and Japan. This opened many collaborations, some of which are ongoing and facilitating our communication skills with researchers that have similar scientific interest.
Moreover, the structure of the Marie Curie training network has been very attractive not only for fellows, but also for the host institutes, which is an additional advantage of the program. At this point I can only express my hope that all supervisors tend to be satisfied with the performance of the ATWARM fellows in their research group…and I am sure it has a place.
On a more personal note, I was excited to learn new techniques as well as meeting and collaborating with European colleagues. My host institute, National Centre for Sensor Research at Dublin City University (Ireland), is a world renowned research center with respect to advanced water technology and development of sensors for environmental applications. The objective of my project was to develop fully functioning, low cost platform for in-situ water quality monitoring. In comparison to traditional water quality analysis, based on laboratory analysis, in-situ measurements generated with portable instruments present a much more scalable model, enabling denser monitoring.
The challenge was to develop inexpensive and reliable device that can be used on site, with the capability to make the resulting data available remotely via web-databases, so that water quality can be monitored independently of location. The vision was to miniaturise processes typically performed in a central clinical lab into small, simple to use devices – so called lab-on-a-chip (LOC) systems. These systems are especially promising for point-of-care applications due to the low reagent consumption, low cost and portability. One main outcome of my work was the development and validation of innovative integrated systems that were designed and developed for quantitative and qualitative analysis of pH, nitrites and turbidity in water samples. A fully integrated, portable, wireless system capable of in-situ reagent-based colorimetric analysis was developed and validated – the Centrifugal Microfluidic Analysis System (CMAS). The stand-alone capabilities of the system, combined with the portability and wireless communication provided the flexibility crucial for on-site water monitoring.
In terms of the ATWARM group, I have to admit I was always looking forward to the meetings and summer schools, as it presented a great opportunity, not only to share scientific knowledge and experience, but also to meet great friends. Although we each came from various backgrounds and cultures, we created a strong sense of friendship. I am convinced that some of the friendships will last much longer than the projects themselves. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Wilson, Patricia and Ciaran for all of the hard work and outstanding contributions as members of the organizing and managerial committee. I know how much time and energy this project demanded, and we deeply appreciate all of your efforts to make it a great success.
To conclude, the ATWARM project gave us an opportunity to acquire new knowledge in both technical and interpersonal skills. We significantly developed our scientific and personal network, which is considered to be a key factor for future careers. There is no doubt that the establishment of a global researcher community has great power to resolve any scientific and social problem in the future. I think that we all can agree that by complementing and acquiring new skills and knowledge this fellowship support will enhance our carrier and will affirm our position as experienced researchers in our specific fields.
Monika Czugala, Dublin City University.