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Reviews written by former grantee students

In 2012, I was awarded the CNR-Armenise-Harvard summer fellowship while I was carrying out an experimental thesis in neurobiology in the Di Schiavi lab, Institute of Genetics and Biophysics of the CNR in Napoli. Participating to the CNR-Armenise-Harvard program was a key event in my life as a young scientist and being given the chance to do research in the Zhang lab at Harvard felt like a real privilege, due to the in discuss quality of research and the prestige of the institution. I had the invaluable chance to work side by side to a very talented postdoc, Gareth Harris, who is still one of my mentors and could definitely be a possible future boss once he has his independent position. The internship at Harvard has also directly opened the door to my next career experience as I made the decision of where to apply for my PhD when I was in Prof. Zhang’s office. That day she was telling me about a grant that she was writing together with A/Prof. Massimo Hilliard at the Queensland Brain Institute, who is now my supervisor. I am currently working on that project and I have been back to the Zhang lab at Harvard in 2014 as visiting PhD student. Finally, living in Boston over summer was an absolutely amazing life experience. It was the first time for me in the States, first time away from home and first time I actually gave real shape to the dream of doing research abroad. I could never be grateful enough for the opportunity that I received from the CNR-Armenise-Harvard summer fellowship program.

(Alessandra Donato, IGB-CNR)
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The Armenise-Harvard Summer Fellowship was one of the best experiences of my undergraduate career. It was extremely valuable, giving me a unique insight into neuroscientific research while providing me with mentorship from talented researchers and many chances to explore and investigate complex topics and ideas. Moreover, this fellowship was a great oppurtunity to network with graduate, undergraduate students and professors and really figure out what it takes to be a sucessful researcher in the future. All the seminars were very informative and useful in helping me decide that graduate school was the path for me. This program has been extremely precious considering the invaluable professional and human contribution it has given to my life. It has cemented many of my interests, and was immensely helpful in making me feel like I was progressing towards my career goals. I would never stop to thank the coordinators of this program for giving me the opportunity to really get insight into an outstanding scientific environment as Harvard University and for their professionality and continuous supply. The confidence I have acquired as a result of this program has pushed me to reach for goals I would never dreamed of pursuing before, and the skills I have developed have helped me to achieve every one of them. There's no way I could adequately describe how fulfilling and enlightening the Armenise-Harvard Summer Fellowship is; it's something one has to experience for themselves.

(Antonella Scaglione, IBPM-CNR)
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My name is Eleonora Centofante a student from the laboratory of Francesca D' Amato, CNR-Rome, and I have to say that The Armenise experience changed completely my idea of thinking and doing Neuroscience. During my second year of Master degree, for a very lucky coincidence, my PI sent me an email about this Giovanni Armenise Foundation and the opportunity to spent two months in one of the Harvard Medical school's laboratory. My first reaction, and I believe that was the reaction of most of the students, was "I will never win that fellowship… Harvard… impossible… that's another level of doing Sciences". Anyway, I tried and surprisingly I got the fellowship! When I first arrived I was scared about everything and I didn't feel up to it. This experience helped me to get more confident, for the first time I had the possibility to talk about Neuroscience, to share ideas and not only to read and study on the books. I spent two months in a really excited environment, I learned new techniques, I had my own small project and I had the chance to work on it using my skills, my ideas but still working on a team. Moreover having the possibility to face with different cultures, different way to think helped me to see things from different prospective. Furthermore every week we had the possibility to meet and talk with different Italian people, scientists, medical doctors, business men that moved abroad and this helped me to better understand how and what does mean moving away or deciding to in Italy form a professional and a personal point of view. I would strongly suggest this experience to every single student, It's really important to know what’s outside our small world to get the instruments to make better decisions.

(Eleonora Centofante, )
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I still remember that summer as if everything happened yesterday. The day my PI told me her CNR institute in Rome was funding 5 fellowships for a summer project in Harvard, the day I found out I won that fellowship, the day I entered the Harvard Medical School for the first time and the day I realized I wanted to do a PhD. Yes because, in reality, before going to the US I was 100% sure I did not want to do a PhD. In my mind a PhD student was that person that often needs to take care of everything in a lab, from experiments and undergraduates to basic duties. To my surprise after working for a couple of months outside of Italy I discovered a completely different reality. I’ve learnt that PhDs are students and they are considered a resource and future of science. For this reason Universities and funding bodies invest on their education and professional training. Half way through that summer I had already changed my mind and I was thinking of applying to a PhD programme. My next doubt was the subject. I was going to pursue a master in Microbiology later that year but I did not want to choose a PhD without trying any other field. I did not want to choose Microbiology just because it was the “safe” choice. For this reason a PhD in the US, that includes few rotations before picking a final lab, sounded really appealing. At the same time, however, I was a bit worried of moving so far away from my family and friends. It was in one of the weekly meetings with the Armenise committee that they told us about the Wellcome Trust programme for the first time. This programme is very similar to US PhDs but it is based in the UK. Today, I am a final year Wellcome Trust PhD student. I could not be happier with my PhD and, looking back, I know that, if I hadn’t had such an amazing opportunity that summer, I would have never made this choice.

(Francesca Cianfanelli, )
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Winning the CNR-Harvard Armenise summer fellowship literally changed my life. I was working at the IBPM-CNR in Rome on neurotrophins biology but for my internship I decided to change field to experiments and learn something new. I spent few months working on the glia field something that I have never considered before; I totally fall in love with the topic that I decided to continue on this field for my PhD. To reach that objective I decide to move to Germany, where I am leaving right now, to work in a lab of a leading expert of the field. Besides changing field of research and country,I also got a wider approach to everyday lab problems solving and especially having an experience in an international environment helps me now to interact with people from different countries and in the everyday life in a country that is not mine.

(Nicola Mattugini, IBPM-CNR)
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Taking part in Armenise-Harvard summer fellowship for undergraduate students was simply the best thing that ever happened to me. By have been engaging in the summer program, I had the opportunity to meet people that helped me to think of my idea of career in a different perspective. The 2013 summer program was one of the 'craziest' edition: we were all females and was the first time for Dr. Annarita Patrizi to direct the program. To make the experience useful for our training and to clarify postgraduate opportunities, she organized weekly a meeting with Italian people who work in US or other countries, with different roles and vocational educations (eg. PIs, Postdocs, MDs, PhD students, Scientific Journalist, Company researcher...), and she greatly reach the point! We all had lively discussions after the meetings that helped me to decide what I really want to do in my life. Despite meetings, the lab life was simply amazing!!! I've also built my own network with people in the lab and other labs in the department, in particular I am still in contact with my supervisor and we still work together. This experience increased my awareness to continue my path with a PhD program. Indeed I started in 2014 a PhD in Biomolecular Science in Giovanna L. Liguori's lab in the Institute of Genetics and Biophysics of CNR in Naples. Today I am really satisfied of my choice and soon I hope to go back to Boston for my next career step as a Postdoc.

(Sara Mancinelli, IGB-CNR)
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As a 2011 CNR-Armenise fellow I feel proud to say that this internship had a profound influence on my scientific career. 2011 was the second year of my master degree in Italy and at the time I wanted to do my PhD in Europe. Supported by the CNR-Armenise fellowship that summer I left for Harvard working in one of the world leading laboratories on Stem Cell research and I was astonished by the way they conducted science. It gave me the impression that there were no limits to what I could achieve if I put my mind into it. Fascinated by this scientific world I decided to pursue my PhD in the United States. During that summer I met the person that became instrumental to the realization of my American dream: Chiara Manzini. She was my mentor at that time and few months later she offered me a job as a research assistant to help her to start a new laboratory at the George Washington University. I worked for her for two of the most formative years of my life where I had enough time to adequately prepare to apply for an American PhD program. I am proud to say that I was accepted at the University of California San Diego where I currently am a 2nd year graduate student. It has been a wonderful scientific journey, but none of it would have been possible without the CNR-Armenise fellowship that opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities.

(Stefania Di Costanzo, )