ORBITAL ESR, Felipe Gonzalez, of Nanovector, is currently on secondment in Ireland at Waterford Institute of Technology. Here, he has been working with the Ocular Therapeutics Research Group (OTRG) in the Pharmaceuitical & Molecular Biotchnology Resesearch Centre (PMBRC). While at the PMBRC, Felipe hosted a workshop on Porcine Ex-Vivo Ocular Set Up for other researchers in the department, sharing his knowledge and skills to researchers outside of ORBITAL.
The workshop started with a brief introduction on porcine ocular anatomy with a focus on the similarities with the human eye. Differences with other mammal ocular bulbs were discussed, highlighting the benefits of repurposing a by-product in the meat industry as a valuable research material. The introduction finished with a brief explanation on Franz diffusion vertical cells theory and the mathematical reasoning behind them (Fick’s laws of diffusion).
The second part of the session was mostly practical, starting with some fundamentals on sharps safety. A stepwise explanation from organ retrieval at the slaughter house until tissue isolation and Franz cell setup was followed. Dissectioning the ocular bulb and observing very closely the numerous and very fragile ocular structures always contrasts with the classical pre-formed, colourful and highly detailed diagrams available in the literature, giving a new perspective for their research.
The session concluded with a hands-on experience where all the early stage researches and Project Coordinator, Dr. Laurence Fitzhenry had the opportunity to prepare their own tissues for some ex vivo permeation experiments that surely will help them in their next steps in ocular research.
“Science is all about communication, so having the opportunity to share my limited knowledge on the topic is useful in so many ways,” Felipe said in discussing the workshop.
“On one side it helps you to adapt your speech to the audience. In one of our last workshops I discovered the term curse of knowledge by which we usually end up not communicating efficiently because we tend to presuppose our audience has our same background, avoiding important basic concept explanations. On other side, it is a way of saying thank you. Thank you to the WIT team (it’s the least I could do after this great secondment experience) and thank you to the UNIPR team, especially Dr. Silvia Pescina, who taught me everything over the past years, I hope I lived up to the expectations!
And lastly, I must admit it was delightful seeing the spontaneous curiosity and general suprise by which everyone approached the research material. Their enthusiasm surely was contagious and served as a boost for facing my last year of this PhD journey!”
The impact of the workshop was invaluable for the other researchers in the OTRG.
Madhuri Dandamudi and Sreeraj Manikandan, two PhD researchers working on project in Ocular Drug Delivery in the OTRG, attended the workshop.
“It was a great experience to learn something new and exciting, which can be applied to the project, and to have a better understanding of the eye and structure in reality through Ex-vivo training”, Sreeraj said.
When asked about the importance of secondments, visiting researchers, and training from other PhD Students, Madhuri emphasized the significance of diverse learning opportunities. “It is important to discuss and share our research experiences, challenges we face and problem-solving strategies we implement with other PhD students. By practising this, we can achieve faster learning outcomes and achieve our research goals more efficiently. I believe skill transfer is crucial particularly among researchers by which we can broaden our research, which may also lead to intradisciplinary collaborations.”
As an ITN – ORBITAL is not purely focused on the development of novel ocular drug delivery techniques, but primarily is responsible for the training and development of the ESRs to enter the workforce as well-rounded, highly skilled researchers. This opportunity to host a workshop and teach is critical to Felipe’s development, and something all ESRs in ORBITAL are encouraged to do.
“Felipe demonstrated some incredible knowledge of the subject, but even more impressive was his ability to communicate and guide hispeers, and even myself, through the process,” Project Coordinator Dr. Laurence Fitzhenry stated. “It’s once again evidence that ORBITAL is ensuring our research is available to others in the field, thus improving overall the knowledge base across the field.”