For the past 5 months, I have been living in the beautiful city of Salamanca in Western Spain! Enrolled in courses at the Universidad de Salamanca – the oldest in the country [est. 1218] and the most breathtaking in my opinion – I returned home with a wider cultural and scientific understanding. I really aproveche [took advantage of] being across the pond and got do some amazing things while taking classes and working!
First the work: Mycobacterium leprae. In between the never-ending travel to century old cathedrals and picturesque Spanish towns, I was working on a developing project for the National Hansen’s Disease Program TravelWell Clinic at Emory University Midtown Hospital. As data flowed in from a pilot study the group ran in Minas Gerais, Brazil from July to December 2015, I was diligently analyzing tested factors to identify any associated disability variables indicative of morbidity for the leprosy-causing bacteria. Endemic to this state and many others in the largest South American country, the data we received ranged in both clinical and social variables. A cross-sectional analysis was performed to determine associations with Grade 1 or 2 nerve disability according to World Health Organization (WHO) criteria. Overall, patients had a high burden of nerve damage consistent with prior studies in endemic areas. Additionally, older age and lower education were associated with disability grades of 1 or 2 in our population, which has also been found in other studies. Off this and planned multivariable analysis and inclusion of patients’ occupation, I submitted the abstract to present an oral presentation at The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene National meeting on November 13-17, 2016.
Second, more work: From January until June 8th, 2016 I was enrolled in 5 courses through the University. One of the courses was titled, “Scientific Writing.” This course was taken at the U.Sal’s department of Filology – taught and graded in Spanish, naturally. During our first recitation, the professor covered the grounds of what was to come in throughout the course. Aside from a few very small assignments, the course grade heavily weighed in on a single final thesis to be submitted in June. I naturally thought of doing a topic related to my chemistry interests, not knowing what I was getting myself into. 5 months and countless, countless, tutoring hours later I submitted my comparative analysis paper on the growing green chemistry movement in Spain vs. other nations. I am grateful to have had the support of both Emory University’s program directors and the department of Chemical Engineering and Filology to guide me through this unexpectedly cumbersome but very enlightening experience.
Lastly, the travel: As aforementioned, I really did aproveche of where I was and made the best of my time abroad. Sure, I maybe sacrificed adequate sleep for a siesta here and siesta there but here are some of the unforgettable things I was able to experience while abroad:
- Purchased a motorcycle and visited small Spanish pueblos on two wheels
- Climbed up and skied down some Spanish and Portuguese mountains
- The running of the bulls [in Ciudad Rodrigo]
- Attended and fanboyed at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show
- Ran a Half Marathon in Athens, Greece
- Did a lap on the Nürburgring! Yes, THE ACTUAL NÜRBURGRING
- Toured Lanzarote on a BMW G650GS
- Made some amazing friends, saw some amazing countries, and ate some amazing food
Juan D. Cisneros
Tasting hydro-alcoholic solutions in Porto, Portugal
Aqueduct of Segovia, Spain