Arthritis research in Glasgow – An experience report

Taking part in this project, promoted by PARTNER fellowship was a rich and fruitful experience. I spent a year at the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, University of Glasgow. I worked in the Tendon Biology Group, where research is focused on the biology of inflammatory response in tendon disease. Currently, there are other 6 people working in the group, with very different scientific and clinical backgrounds, providing different points of views on the topic.  

During the first two-three months I had the time and chance to learn a wide range of lab techniques, such as tissue culture, quantitative PCR, flow cytometry, ELISA and histology. Once confident, I started working on my project under the supervision of more experienced researchers, which also provided precious advice and help. The institute directed by Prof. McInnes occupies a six storey building in the West End. Research interests of the several groups in the institute are wide and diverse and thanks to frequent meetings, I had the opportunity to listen to suggestions and observations and to learn from other people's work.

Most experiments involving cellular and molecular biology can be performed in the institute, thanks to the wide range of high technological equipment available. Laboratories are accessible at any time of the day and every day of the week, which allows for high flexibility in terms of working hours and time management. While working on my project, I was also involved in other activities going on at the institute, such as clinical research, public Engagement and journal clubs, all of which greatly contributed to my professional growth.

I also had the opportunity to work in the clinic and in the clinical research facility where numerous clinical trials are constantly ongoing. Rheumatology clinics are mainly focused on articular diseases and take place in all the hospitals of the area, although most are at Gartnavel General Hospital, Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. It was a very interesting experience to see how clinical practice can differ from country to country, due to diversity of structures and regulations. I started a training in ultrasound-guided synovial biopsy procedures as well. Clinical activities are also a good opportunity to meet patients and recruit volunteers for your project, if required.

Tips for future fellows
Accommodation. Finding an accommodation in Glasgow is not easy. My suggestion is to book a temporary accommodation in advance and, once in Glasgow, start looking for a longer-term solution. The easiest way to do it is through an estate agency, but the market is very fast and after viewing a property, you will need to give an answer within 24-48h, so there is very little chance to compare properties. A downside of agencies is that they will do a credit check on you and if your main income is coming from abroad it will be very difficult to pass the check. Private lettings are also possible, as well as house sharing. In case you will be registered as a student, you may be able to get access to student accommodation.

Paperwork. If you want to take part in clinical activities, you will need to go through a long process, starting from registration to the GMC, which requires a proof of English knowledge (usually a IELTS exam), occupational health checks and many more steps, most of which can be started before departure. I suggest you discuss all this with the institute in advance and they will be able to guide you, to get you ready to work in the clinic soon after your arrival.