Hello dear readers of the PROTECTED blog!

Time to share with you the experience of my second secondment. Around mid June I moved to Belfast, Northern Ireland to work in the Institute of Global Food Security (IGFS), part of Queen’s University, supervised by Dr. Lisa Connolly. Even if I have been to Belfast for the other PROTECTED events, for the first time I had the chance to discover the city and its surroundings and I really enjoyed it.

Working here, I had the chance to use that amazing tool – that is the reporter gene assay – to investigate the estrogenic activity present in fetal plasma. Our research question? Given that cigarette smoke is a cocktail of thousands pollutants, many of which with endocrine disrupting properties, we asked whether there was a change in estrogenic bioactivity in the plasma of fetuses whose mothers were smokers.

I am still “digesting” the results, but I will update you about it. Don’t worry. In the meantime, please just trust me when I say cigarette smoke is pretty bad, especially if you’re pregnant!

Now, forgetting for a moment about toxic chemicals.. You may have wondered why I have titled this blog post like that… Well, well, well. Winterfell is the castle and seat of power of House Stark, so yes I am talking about Game of Thrones obviously! For those who don’t know, basically Belfast is GoT hometown. It is where large part of the filming occurred and maybe it does not need to be said but yes, I am a HUGE GoT fan! Like, not exaggerating. I have watched it several times and read all the books. Yes I know the last season left many disappointed (me as well) but GoT remains for me an amazing entertainment product. So could you just imagine my pure excitement when I found out I was moving to Belfast?

I’ll list here the best GoT-related experiences I had. Be aware, contains SPOILERS!

1. Filming location tours: even if vast majority was actually filmed indoor (at the Titanic Studios) there is plenty of locations around Northern Ireland. Where did I go? Do you remember when King Robert gets to Winterfell to ask Ned Stark to become his Hand in episode 1? Yes I visited the original Winterfell aka Castle Ward. Or do you remember the cave where Melisandre gave birth to the Shadow? I was in that cave. And just next to the cave there is the beach where the final -not really heroic- battle between Jaime Lannister and Euron Greyjoy happened. In the pictures Castle Ward and the amazing spot where the Starks find the Direwolves pups in the first season (in the Tollymore Forest Park).

It was also very funny because we got to wear special GoT outfits. Attached a –notatall- embarrassing picture of me with my fellow ESRs Melissa and Mazia pretending to be very serious Stark family members.

2. Game of Thrones Exhibition: an incredible collection of original items and especially costumes used across seasons. There were the swords, like Needle, Daenerys dragon eggs, Jamie’s golden hand and so much more.

3. Glass of Thrones: there are 6 stained-glass windows around Belfast, each one celebrating the major moments of the different families and characters. This is glass number 1 featuring Stark family, just in front of the City Hall.

4. Finally my favourite! I was so lucky to have the chance to meet George RR Martin in person! What? Who is George? He is the reason why GoT exists! The author of the book series A Song of Ice and Fire with Game of thrones being the first novel. So now I am a proud owner of an autographed book.

What a secondment has been! Thank you Belfast!

Now brace yourself, winter is coming so it is time for me to go back to Aberdeen.


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