Dec 1, 2016

The founding principle of all the activities of Zdenek and Michaela Bakala is, truly, the courage, which must, according to their belief, always go hand in hand with responsibility.
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Vachicouras - report


February 2014 – August 2014 (7 months)


Harvard Medical School


Eaton-Peabody Laboratories

Department of Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School 


Boston is a wonderful city for students and young people. Apart from being ground to some of the world’s most renowned universities, Boston has a multitude of different bars, local and international restaurants, as well as great museums, such as the Museum of Fine Arts, which is worth a visit. Nevertheless, I was mostly impressed by people’s state of mind, and by how students had a very positive mental attitude towards risk and professional ambition. In my opinion, this attitude is greatly missing in Europe and it was very motivating and inspiring to talk to students there and hear about their ambitious projects and plans for the future.


Because I was working in a Hospital, I had to take many courses about regulatory compliance, sexual harassment in the workplace, security training or even on patient confidentiality. These were mandatory in order to get my badge and access to the hospital. I also had to follow and validate different courses to get the authorization to work with animals. Finally, I had a visit with a nurse to make sure I was up to date with all vaccines, and to get a flue shot. 


There was nothing special to note about the arrival, apart that the cab driver at the airport didn’t know the name of the street where I lived (in Somerville, North of Cambridge). I had to turn on my data roaming on my Swiss cellphone and guide him with the GPS…. Next time I will print a map before arriving in a new city.


Thanks to my family in Boston, I had easily found an apartment, as my uncle and aunt were able to visit for me some apartments before my arrival. The major problem was that the apartment didn’t have any furniture. It was very difficult to buy and bring the beds, sofa and tables to my apartment, because all the home stores are outside of town (such as Ikea or Home Depot), and they are only accessible by car. I was very lucky to have an uncle with a very large (American) pick up truck to transport the beds and furniture. But next time I travel in another country for a short amount of time, I will look for a furnished apartment. Lesson learned.


I was mostly working in a laboratory in a Hospital, but there were only academic research laboratories on our floor. I think it is something to emphasize, because it is still quite rare to see such “engineering-related” research within a hospital and to have clinical doctors and surgeons involved that much in such research. I believe this is the number one reason why Harvard and MIT are so well known in the Biomedical field. What is better to develop a biomedical device and to have real-time feedback from your Professor who is also the end user of your device?

I also took that opportunity to observe some surgeries performed by my Professor on humans. It was a great experience.

It was also nice meeting different students, not only from the USA, but also from Europe and Asia.

Once a month, we also had a social hour, where all the researchers, professors and students could chat around a beer and some food. It was a great way to meet other people and to learn about their research. During the school year, there were also weekly conferences, given by various professors from all over the USA. I thought it was a great way to learn what is going on in the field of otolaryngology.


I had a lot of free time during the weekends and in the evenings. I took the opportunity to try out different bars and restaurants around Boston and Cambridge. Apart from the incredibly tasty American steaks and hamburgers, I highly recommend the famous Boston clam chowder and Lobster.

I also did other activities, such as hiking around Boston with some other international students, or a ferry boat tour around the Harbor Islands. I also took the opportunity to visit other cities, especially New York which is only 4 hours away from Boston by bus or train. The Bus tickets are also very cheap, and it is easy to get a round trip for 40 USD. I also went to San Diego and in Nevada and I was amazed to see how different the West coast was different from the East coast. I also highly recommend doing a road trip to the Grand Canyon. It is an amazing and unique place to visit.



Nicolas Vachicouras - photos


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