How much do graduate students benefit from studying abroad?
Many U.S. graduate students in the sciences see working in another nation as an important part of their training. For example, molecular biologist and GMB graduate student Crystal Grant says a big reason she applied for one of NSF’s GRFs was that she would also be eligible for a $5000 GROW award.
She got both. As a result, after spending 4 years at Emory University in Atlanta studying the epigenetic factors in healthy human aging under human geneticist Karen Conneely, Grant is now halfway through a 1-year stint with scientists at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands. (Dr. Conneely is a faculty member in the GMB and PBEE programs.)
Grant assumed that building an international network of research collaborators, and learning about another culture, would be a surefire way to boost her scientific career.
For Grant, her stint at Leiden has gone exactly as she had hoped. She gained access to tissue from a much larger cohort of patients and expects to write up a paper that is distinct from her work at Emory. And then there are the intangible benefits.
“I think that the scientific method is the same around the world,” she says. “So that wasn’t a big change. But learning to be comfortable engaging people from a different culture, in a new setting and with a different adviser, that’s a really valuable skill I’ve been able to acquire.”
“Yeah, it may have delayed my graduation date a bit,” Grant concedes. “But that’s a small price to pay for everything I’ve gotten from it.”