Interview with Vicente

Each month we take a closer look at one of the research groups at Groningen Cardiology. Who runs them, which topics do they investigate, and what is it like to be part of them as a PhD candidate? Last Wednesday, we interviewed Isabelle van Gelder, and today we are interviewing Vicente, one of her PhD candidates.

Vicente Artola Arita originally comes from El Salvador, where he graduated from medical school before pursuing two further Master’s degrees. In 2018, he came to the Netherlands in order to pursue a doctoral degree at the UMCG. Together with his promotor Isabelle van Gelder, he investigates arrhythmic disorders. Personalized medicine is his main interest: therapies aimed at individual patients instead standard therapies meant to treat entire populations.

First of all: congratulations! You recently won the Three Minute Thesis competition. What was it like to pitch your entire thesis in such a short stretch of time?

Thanks. It was a challenge because the purpose was to transmit the importance of my research and the implications of results to a broad audience keeping the scientific content intact; this means that people from different fields, even outside research, had to be able to understand what I intend to do. It was even more challenging to do it in just three minutes. It is important to not only perform good research but also to communicate it adequately. I learned a lot about communicating research and I am more willing to continue doing so.

Let’s talk about how you got here. You just graduated from medical school, decided to pursue two more degrees, but how did you end up in the Netherlands?

I was always interested in research and started doing some within my clinical environment. I wanted to pursue a career in research along with experienced professionals in an institution with a research structure and facilities. I came across an opportunity to do research and internationals, like me, were welcome. It was the PROMINENT project in which 16 PhD students were going to study diabetes from different perspectives, in my case the cardiological perspective, and more specifically in arrhythmias. This is how I applied for this position and why I am here now.

Do you remember your first impression of this department?

I was totally impressed. Many people working on different and very specialized topics regarding cardiology. I was amazed by the knowledge of supervisors and senior colleagues; I realized the complexity of their work and their enthusiasm on working to get their results.

Your promotor and research group are very important aspects of the PhD experience, but what was it like to suddenly live and work in Groningen? Which things required the most getting used to?

It was a complete shock. The environment, the language, the food, the weather and the country’s bureaucracy in general. Everything was new and overwhelming. I came almost by the beginning of winter and it was cold, wet and dark. I come from a place where it is practically summer all time. It took me some time to get used to the new environment but I enjoyed the process of discovering, which I still do, including rediscovering how to cycle again. I felt proud that after three months I could transport my new mattress for 8 km using my own bike; I felt I mastered one step into adapting to the new life.

Are you able to combine your personal life with your work as a researcher and PhD candidate?

Sometimes I feel there is a lot of work to do and so little time. At times, I need to put in some extra effort to make things work and be on track. Other than that, I manage to have time to enjoy some quality time with my family and discover the surroundings.

And finally: what’s the single best tip you can think of for upcoming physician-scientists from anywhere in the world if they somehow find themselves working in Groningen?

Come and try it! you will never know if this is for you unless you try. If you like research, there is plenty to do over here.

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