Chronology of how I ended up in Trento, Italy

Thinking about my Fulbright experience chronologically, I thought it would be fun to put together a timeline of how this trip came to be. I think the story goes back to 2010.

July 2010 – August 2013: Did a post-doc at the Harvard School of Public Health under the joint supervision of Curtis Huttenhower and Giovanni Parmigiani. During the first two years of this time, I shared an office with fellow post-doc Nicola Segata, until he accepted a faculty position in his hometown of Trento, Italy.

May 12-17 2013: in the last year of my post-doc, I gave a talk titled, “A comparative meta-analysis of prognostic gene signatures for late-stage ovarian cancer” at a workshop titled Statistical Genomics and Data Integration for Personalized Medicine in Ascona, Switzerland.

May 25, 2013: after the Ascona conference and a week of vacation in Italy, I visited the Center for Integrative Biology (CIBIO) at the University of Trento, where my friend and former post-doc colleague Nicola Segata had arranged for me to give a seminar titled “Colorectal cancer subtypes using FFPE tissues.” During this trip I also met Alessandro Quattrone, chair of CIBIO, and we started collaborating on a computational biology project led by Alessandro’s post-doc, Angela Re.

May 2, 2014: notice posted for a U.S. Fulbright award for teaching and research at the University of Trento, Italy. By this time Prof Quattrone and I have started a second research project together, which I use as the basis of the research component of my application. For the teaching component, I design a course titled “Applied Statistics for High-throughput Biology” based on Nicola’s advice of how best to align my expertise with PhD students in the department.

August 1, 2014: application due and submitted, titled “Applied Statistics for High-throughput Biology; Enhanced Estimation of the Cancer Proteome from Transcriptome Assays”

August 4, 2014: The paper resulting from my first collaboration with Alessandro Quattrone and Angela Re is published online in Stem Cell Research (Lineage-specific interface proteins match up the cell cycle and differentiation in embryo stem cells,

Nov 14, 2014: I received the following from the Institute of International Education, that administers the U.S. Fulbright program:

“It is a pleasure to inform you that the peer review process, organized by IIE’s Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES), has been completed and that you are among those recommended for a Fulbright award in Italy.”

It is also careful to warn me that “Unfortunately, the number of meritorious applicants routinely exceeds the number of available grants,” that this is only the first step, and that I should not make any irreversible arrangements.

Mar 31, 2015: I receive the official notice of award. It is still contingent on receiving satisfactory medical clearance and the required study visa. After this, I arrange with my department and with CIBIO for the dates of my stay in Trento to be January 10 – June 26, 2016. Since I do most of my teaching in the fall this will cause a minimum of disruption in my own school, and my stay will encompass a complete semester in Trento with some time at the beginning before the semester starts.

Oct 6, 2015: I submit all my medical documents, after 4 trips to the clinic for various exams and vaccination boosters.

Nov 9, 2015: I purchase a 1-way ticket to Milan, IT in preparation for my appointment at the Italian consulate on Nov 11. The visa application process was a huge pain. After following instructions to apply for my visa not more than 3 months before the start of my trip, I find that there is a more than 2-month waiting period for an appointment. I manage to get this appointment by checking back on the website every morning for about a week. The appointment itself is almost unsuccessful, as several copies and documents are required that weren’t listed on the website, but I manage to run and get them copied in a 30-minute window. Having a letter written in Italian from the U.S. Fulbright Commission in Rome helps.

Nov 16, 2015: I receive official medical clearance. Around this time I also get my apartment, which is reserved and paid for by CIBIO, and everything is pretty well in order.

So that’s it, a process I can trace to connections starting all the way back in 2010 and to a collaboration initiated after giving a talk in spring 2013. I’ve given a lot of talks in the past few years, and I still don’t turn one down unless I have to because I just don’t know where it could lead.