Ever since my diploma thesis I have been fascinated by mast cells, these mysterious immune cells which are probably best known for the role they play in allergic reactions. I still remember how my research into the literature would frequently surface the name of one scientist: Stephen Galli. This was probably why to me the name Galli became synonymous with pioneering research in the area of mast cells, allergies and type-2 immune responses. Ever since then I dreamed of the opportunity to gather experience in Stephen Galli’s group.
After my thesis was completed this dream became reality, and in the spring of 2012 I moved to the Bay Area on the US West Coast in order to do my post-doc at the Galli Lab in Stanford. Although the university was 50 kms. away, I decided to make my base in San Francisco. I spent the first two weeks at an inexpensive backpackers’ hostel getting my bearings and looking for lodgings. During that time in a room shared with eight other people I learned again to truly appreciate the privilege of privacy. But I also met a number of illustrious people there, such as a retired pharmacist who was emigrating to Mexico and looking for ways to sell a wonder drug developed by a Russian scientist. Despite such interesting encounters I was happy when I finally found a small apartment near Union Square at the city centre. I took to San Francisco like a duck to water, and being so close to the vibrant life of downtown S.F. probably helped me not to feel lonely despite being such a long way from home.
After about a year the awkward and lengthy trip to Stanford by bus and train became too much – in the evenings and on weekends it might well last one or one-and-a-half hours. So I finally bought an old VW Jetta from a colleague at the lab. This increased my flexibility no end and I was now able to use the weekends for outings, exploring the wonderful countryside of California and going to places such as Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, or Big Sur on the coast.
The Galli Lab is composed of researchers from all over the world, many of whom have become close friends. Working on my project at the lab – I am teamed up with a Belgian Postdoc to work on mechanisms of acquired poison resistance – was and still is very exciting. The last two years in San Francisco and Stanford were an incredibly rich learning experience, and the enormous wealth of new professional and personal interactions has exceeded all my hopes and expectations. Admittedly: the decision to go abroad was difficult, the process was very complex and communication with my nearest and dearest at home is made difficult by the time difference of nine hours. But if I had to decide again today I would do it all over again; I would again go for the Galli Lab and San Francisco. Meanwhile the city is like a second home to me. This said, I am tremendously looking forward to returning to Austria and being with my family and friends there again.