Alix Piessevaux, Fellow 2021, is 22 years old. She came back in August 2022 from New York, where she spent one year at Icahn School of Medicine. During this fellowship she studied the role of bacteria in colorectal cancer tumorigenesis.
How did you come up with the idea of doing this gap year of research in the United States?
I heard about the BAEF through my faculty during my participation in its Honors program. The Honors program was a wonderful way for me to explore my interest in research while still combining this with my Bachelor in Medicine. What BAEF had to offer was of an entirely different magnitude: a full one year fellowship in any US institution. To a young student like myself, eager to gain experience in the world of scientific research, this sounded like a dream opportunity. And sure enough, I was not disappointed.
What did you get out of it?
I was able to solely focus on gaining scientific skills and knowledge, while being trained by experts in the field. I share the opinion of most BAEF-alumni that a work or study experience in the US can be of tremendous value in any budding career. I am now able to appreciate the strengths and unicity of American research institutions when it comes to work ethic and funding for example, as well as the benefit from the life-long transatlantic relationships I’ve gained.
Do you see it helping you in your Master degree in Belgium?
Now, I am completing my medical education as a Master student at the KU Leuven. Therefore, my new found skillset has not been put to use yet. But I am certain it will be of great value in my Master thesis (and hopefully PhD) and build the foundation of my future career as a physician-researcher.
What about life in New York? Quite an experience at 21 years old?
Besides the professional aspects of this fellowship, living in New York City also offers an incredible social and cultural experience. As one can imagine, a metropolis like New York was a perfect place to meet a lot of new and different people, build friendships, and gain confidence and knowledge about myself. I will always value the continuing impact this experience has had on myself as a person.
Any recommendations for students who would like to do the same thing?
In conclusion, to any students out there considering applying for the Master’s level research fellowship, I say: Go for it! You cannot yet imagine how much you will gain from this opportunity, but I can assure you that it will be immeasurable.