December 15, 2021

It’s that time of the year (again)

Author: Alessia Zotta


It’s only the beginning of December here in Dublin and I am already flooded by the Christmas lights which are bouncing from the corners of the buildings surrounding the streets in the city centre. The early start of Christmas decorations is a great way to feel the Christmas spirit and finally all of us have something to look forward to, but at the same time is making us aware that another year is coming to an end. From my point of view, each ending is bringing with it all the possible evaluation of your life and all the experiences you had in the past twelve months.

It has been one year more or less that myself and the other ESRs are part of INsTRuCT: we are very lucky because we are working in an exciting and cross-disciplinary environment focused on the development of myeloid cell-based immunotherapies and involving several prestigious universities and industries from all over Europe. We were selected by experienced scientists and we have been trained until now to be ‘the researchers of the future’ who could make a difference with their novel and original ideas.

At the beginning it was not easy at all, we decided to leave our comfort zone, our country, our family and our friends to start working in another lab without knowing if this is going to turn out good or bad! The most important thing that still drives us is the passion for science, our curiosity and the intention of doing something good to help guide future treatments for people who are sick and looking for a cure.

This one is a great opportunity for us and, despite everything it is like a rollercoaster and one day your mood is over the clouds while the other one you would only set all the things around you on fire, we really should be grateful for that and enjoy every single day of it.

I know that is not easy, we have to work late hours and during the weekend, preparing presentations of our data, asking questions without feeling stupid, respecting deadlines, keep updated with the newest discoveries made by the scientific community...but the hard work we are doing now will be worth it. Hopefully, in this time we will learn what resilience means: when everything seems to go wrong and the experiments do not work…there is no problem! It is good to have a bad moment (or more than one!), it is good to fail and we do not have to be ashamed for that! We have to get used to fall and to stand up again for the next time. We always have to think that we would not be where we are if we were not up to the challenge.

In addition, when we feel overwhelmed there is nothing unsound in suddenly stopping for one minute, taking a deep breath and thinking “what am I doing? Where do I want to go?”. This would help us for sure to decrease a little bit of the entropy of our chaos and make things clearer.

Apart from life coaching sentences and extreme positivity, I would like to shortly focus on one thing which shook our lives almost two years ago: the world-wide impact of SARS-CoV-2.

One of the last things I would have ever expected in my 27 years of existence was living during a pandemic. I remember how scared I was in March 2020 when I was stuck in my room and I clearly did not know anything about this virus (like everyone). We had a lot of unanswered questions and the only certainty we had was waiting more and more for discovering new information about SARS-CoV-2 behaviour. In that moment the entire conception of scientific research and evolution got a different meaning for all of us and especially for the people who never got in touch with these words.

Now, after one and a half years, thanks to the global effort of doctors and scientists and the approval of vaccines, 7.9 billion of people feel more confident about the world outside, about going everywhere, meeting new people, and travelling. Also the most doubtful individuals trust science even more because it gave us the right means to fight SARS-CoV-2.

This story involved my family personally in May this year and nine days ago, when I got Covid myself. Now I am self-isolating in my room while writing this blog on my laptop and I cannot complain about quarantine because we spent a longer time in the house during the spring in 2020. It is so funny because you always read all the news on the TV and all the scientific papers related to that but you are never so aware of anything until you have been touched on your own. I never got sick since I was a baby…not even from a cold or influenza! But one week ago I felt soooo bad that I was 100% sure there was something wrong. I had the plethora of symptoms we are all aware of nowadays and I showed them in different days of my illness, I could have been the perfect patient for a university medicine book!

Now I am feeling better and without a high temperature or any other symptoms; I only have to wait another day (the last one!) in order to end my self-isolation and going back to normal life.

Who would have ever thought about getting Covid despite every day respecting the usual self-distancing and sanitization rules? For me, this is a good advice: things could happen, if you like them or not and even if you do whatever to avoid them… there is nothing you can do about! You can only go with the flow, accept them and try to learn a lesson. When you are thinking about your goals and start wondering about how the other people are living, you must stop and not spend another minute doing that because you will not achieve anything, just be yourself and be proud of every challenge you were able to win. Maybe you will never totally realize because you will get involved in another test but your strength and personality will benefit from that.

I promise myself to remember these tips whenever my sea will be stormy.