Tess Ames
17th February 2021

Researcher Blog | ORBITAL! Adapting to new culture

ESR 2, Shilpkala Gade, from Queens University Belfast, discusses what it was like to join ORBITAL and move to Belfast in the most recent Researcher Blog below!


Do I need to learn all these? No, no, no. But ORBITAL gave me the opportunity to interact, and be part of this global research group, which includes erudite researchers of varying backgrounds from different countries.

The consortium is composed of diverse cultural opinions and expressions, as well as distinguished scholars and renowned experts. The group offers a unique opportunity for everyone (experts and novices alike) to enhance their knowledge, learn about novel drug delivery routes and explore and challenge prevailing orthodoxies.

To borrow a quote from William Langewiesche: “So much of who we are is where we have been.”

This brings me to my personal endeavours: I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in pharmaceutics at one of the prestigious institutes in India, Indian Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University. Being the pioneering institute for pharmacy education it is equipped with required infrastructure, deliverables and adept professionals. Coming from a diverse country like India, learning and adapting to new culture was never a challenge for me. Nevertheless, I believe people who travel usually do have a great appreciation, understanding and respect for other cultures.

ORBITAL has certainly been an impactful event, which involves programmes such as secondments, public patient interaction, talking to patients, promoting your research through worldwide conferences.

Though reserved, I was also a curious child and loved reading scientific literature, collecting coins of different countries (numismatics) and travelling. As a child I was always curious about why the things manifest the way they do, and I would always ask myself, why are doctors so special and why do people respect them so much? So, I wanted to pursue a profession which is related to patients’ welfare by one or the other means. While I was pursuing masters, my Granny, who’s very close to me, underwent a cataract surgery and I still remember the pain she had to go through. Also, what deeply intrigued my curiosity was long-acting eye drops, as I watched her struggle with remembering to put in eye drops every 15 minutes. This intrigued me in reading about long-acting ocular dosage forms. I worked on project called “development of nanostructured lipid carriers of moxifloxacin for the treatment of endophthalmitis” during my master’s, which bagged first prize for poster presentation at Indian pharmaceutical Congress Association (apex body in pharmacy field) in India. And undeniably that moment apprised me about my profound interest in research and development.

Despite the fact that research has high potential to benefit people, most of the time academic research is limited to small scale and it lacks that industrial insight. After my master’s degree I joined Lupin research park, Pune, which helped me gain hands-on expertise about large scale drug development, quality control, quality assurance, marketing, research & development and regulatory aspect of formulation and development. This also helped me get acquainted of all together a different side of research, viz “commercialisation”. ORBITAL is a bigger consortium where innovation meets commercialisation, which has more industrial partners than any other program I’ve been involved in.

In September 2019, I was offered a PhD admission at Queen’s University Belfast. I remember joining Queen’s in the mid December 2019, at the peak of wintertime. The weather here was totally different from the one in my city Mumbai, India. It was a time to learn to adapt living in different climate and learn to live in condition out of your comfort zone. I somehow started liking this cold, chilly weather of Belfast. Life here was very much different from the life in my country.

The first cultural shock for me after I came to Belfast was the English breakfast (SAUSAGES), because I had never had them. And how ironic it is, they call it a “fry up” for breakfast which consists of boiled sausages, eggs, bacon, black beans, tomatoes, mushroom, toast. Whereas, in my country people eat fried Puri, Sabjee, Idli, Dosa (preferably Masala Dosa), Samosa in breakfast and still call it a light breakfast. Jokes apart, I really appreciate the polite nature and outstanding etiquettes of people in this part of the world.

Besides specialising in ocular drug delivery, this certainly will capacitate me to develop personal and interpersonal skills. With compelling opportunities to promote our research in scientific forum, it is also involved in promoting our research in layman’s terms. It is a privilege to join horizon 2020’s MSCA programme.




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