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PhD student broadens horizon with a research trip to the USA

Beatrice Berthon is a PhD researcher in Medical Physics at the School of Medicine who has recently returned from a 21-day research trip to the USA funded by an IPEM Travel Award.

Woman standing in front of the John Hopkins University's main buidling
PhD student Beatrice Berthon in front of John Hopkins University's main building.

"I had to make contact myself with the groups I was interested in and provide some letters of invitation for the award application, as well as a detailed itinerary and budget plan. The purpose of this trip was to visit some labs/companies working on subjects relevant to my PhD project and to learn about some neighbouring fields.

"My trip reinforced the links our group has with some groups over there, created some new ones and helped broaden my network. I was also able to present my work and discuss some possible collaboration."

Beatrice visited Emory University’s Radiation Oncology Department and Velocity Medical Solutions in Atlanta and attended ASTRO’s 55th Annual Meeting in Atlanta, before visiting George Sgouros RTD Lab at John Hopkins University, Wisconsin Institute for Medical Research and the Memorial Sloane-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York.

"I had a fantastic trip, very exciting both in terms of pioneering research, and cultural experience. I was lucky to see one of the first ViewRay systems, a hybrid MRI and RT delivery instrument. My highlights also included the visit of the grandiose World of Coca Cola in Atlanta, and a hiking trip to beautiful Devil's Lake with the research group hosting me in Madison, Wisconsin.

"I only knew a couple of people via email exchanges, but my hosts were extremely friendly and ready to show me around. I had a great experience sharing quality time with other PhD students.

"This experience was a huge leap forward in the development of my career, as it helped me broaden my horizon and my vision of the Medical Physics field. I visited very different research groups and organisations, and learned about new areas to which my experience and skills could be applied. This will be extremely helpful for choosing the next step in my career. I also made many important contacts.

"Presenting my work to other groups was also a great experience, as it allowed me to improve my presentation skills and gave me confidence. The discussions I had about my project with other researchers highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of my work, and gave me some ideas for the last steps of my PhD project.

"I would strongly recommend looking for this type of experience. Seize any opportunity to see what is done elsewhere, and how!"

Beatrice started her Medical Physics PhD in 2011 after securing a Cancer Research Wales funded PhD studentship through the School of Medicine. "I decided to do a postgraduate degree because I was very interested in the academic research process, and because I thought this was a unique experience that would also be a key asset for my career.

"My supervisors have encouraged me to take part in conferences, publish my work and participate in training. I have received lots of information by the University about available training, and have been encouraged to present my work at the postgraduate research day.Some of the training I attended was useful and entertaining, a perfect break and a good opportunity to meet other students.