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Medical School student does research internship in New York

Wyllians Vendramini did research at Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research at New York University

12/03/2019 - 08h31
Photo: personal archives

Photo: personal archives

Wyllians Vendramini, a PhD student at the School of Medicine  has been working on his research project Superagers at the Brain Institute of RS (BraIns) and spent six months doing research in the USA. Vendramini was awarded with a grant by the Brazilian Federal Agency for Evaluation and Support of Graduate Education – CAPES, under the PDSE program, which has been designed for PhD students who want to develop research overseas. Wyllians went to Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research (NKI), an institute affiliated by the New York University, and came back to Brazil in the beginning of 2019. During his experience in the US, he gained a lot both personally and professionally: he wrote an article, learned new neuroimaging techniques, brushed up his English, engaged in networking activities and made long-lasting friends as he worked on his dissertation.

At the Center for Biomedical Imaging and Neuromodulation division, under the supervision of Dr. Alexandre Rosa Franco, Vendramini processed 200 images that were collected in Brazil, wrote scripts, corrected processing errors and conducted strict analyses. “I did this in a unimodal perspective, as I followed the plans strictly, and in a multimodal perspective, which was the goal I intended to achieve in this exchange. “So, it was possible to learn the image blending techniques in order to find out the alterations a single modality is not able to track”, he says. He also joined meetings every two weeks and attended lectures. He presented the project and its results several times. The suggestions and critiques he received helped him write the article.

In Vendramini’s view, the contributions to the project Superagers are innumerable, as they come both directly and indirectly. “Living among different cultures will get you to think in a different way. And this is when creativity springs up. You can also learn a lot with the meetings and discussions with other groups, as criticism will improve the quality of your work. I’ve also learned techniques that are not commonly used in our field, but I want to continue using them in order to help other researchers here in Brazil”, he says. He is coming to the end of the first stage of his research project. The structure he used can be used in other projects so that other researchers can continue working on other analyses.

Research in Brazil and USA

Photo: personal archives

Photo: personal archives

In Vendramini’s view, the structures of research environments at NKI is very similar to those of Brazil. The magnetic resonance equipment that are found there are easily found anywhere in Brazil. The difference lies in the environment the research is developed. In view of the massive funding provided by the US government, the organization of the research structure is very different. For instance, there are positions for research assistants and full-time researchers who are committed to producing knowledge, and this is not so common here. Because of that, research teams work more intensely by collecting, analyzing and writing the findings”, he says.

When it comes to knowledge production, Vendramini finds many similarities between the two countries. However, the way he sees it, Brazil needs to acknowledge its own problems to use them as subjects of research. “I see dementias are hotly discussed issues in Brazilian research, but we still lack exact data for us to know how many elderly individuals have dementias in our cities. If the collection and analysis of data were easier in Brazil, I believe we would be able to produce high-quality research as to the amount of knowledge produced”, he adds.

Personal and professional growth

At NKI, Vendramini lived among different cultures. In his view, there is not a clear-cut distinction between foreigners and Americans. “As long as researchers keep a satisfactory level of quality, everyone is welcome. This is one of the key issues: to understand that differences are, in the worst case scenario, very constructive.” He acknowledges that he gained a lot both personally and professionally. “Living with people from different countries, making friends from the four corners of the planet and making incredible memories are just some of the things I can say. Many things are part of the limbic system”, he concludes.

Doctoral Research Program Overseas

PDSE is a program intended to assist researchers in the development of their research at the international level, with the improvement of their techniques. The way Vendramini sees it, it is essential to contact the professor of the institution you wish to attend. This professor will, then, confirm your acceptance for your period of studies. “BraIns was key in putting me into contact with the people from US”, he acknowledges.