I still refer to my 2011 sabbatical experience at the University of Liverpool, England, as a transformative event, a whimsical dream that actually came true. Virtually every goal I had set for myself – both professional (making a substantial contribution to what was a new research area for me) and personal (assimilating into a new culture and living environment, including meeting the needs of my family who had accompanied me) – far exceeded my expectations. Holding this experience in such high regard, trepidation and anxiety consumed my thoughts as I prepared for my return to the university this summer, almost two years since I left the United Kingdom. Would the strong bonds I had forged with people still be as powerful? Would I be as warmly welcomed as when I first arrived for my sabbatical? How much research progress could I realistically make having less than a month’s time to work? Would the level of excitement and novelty I felt living in this European city be the same? Essentially, I wondered and worried about how to relive a lifealtering situation.
My fears vanished as the plane touched down in Manchester, England. The familiarity of the airport and stepping off the train in Lime Street Station Liverpool triggered a flood of wonderful, exciting memories. Meeting my sabbatical colleagues, Andy Bates and Lesley Iwanejko, began with sincere hugs and a rather demanding query: “When are you coming back for a proper stay?” From the warm reception I was given by every companion, I subconsciously concluded that the relationships I made during that magical time two years ago were certainly meaningful and enduring.
But what was strikingly different in this return to the university was my research role. Two years ago I was a novice to the field of chemical damage to DNA, and I learned the [extremely intricate] experimental technique and machinery that was the crux of the research project – also a novel approach to this line of research – only two months before my sabbatical would end. Now, I was serving as the teacher; the post-doctoral fellow who was continuing the project I started wanted my
advice and suggestions on the experimental procedures I designed, and even insisted on using the very same solutions I had made two years ago but wistfully stored away.
Should I be so surprised by the way in which my return to Liverpool unfolded? When a relationship is built not only on a pragmatic goal to accomplish a certain task, but also involves mutual respect and admiration, how can it not sustain itself and flourish? And in our education universe, as well as other spheres of life, isn’t a hallmark of a true learning experience that the student becomes the teacher? I eagerly await future visits to what I consider to be my second “academic home” (a reference I coin from the words of an esteemed VPAA).
Please enjoy these photos from the University of Liverpool:
Dr. Patricia Compagnone-Post, an Associate Professor of Biology, joined the Albertus Magnus College faculty in 2003. She was appointed an Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Liverpool in 2011. The Connecticut Technology Council selected Dr. Compagnone-Post a Woman of Innovation Finalist in 2009 for her contributions to the field of academic innovation and leadership. Prior to joining the Albertus faculty she had been a research scientist at the Yale University School of Medicine.
Dr. Compagnone-Post received a B.S. degree, magna cum laude, in chemistry from Emmanuel College, a M.S. degree in molecular biology from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Pittsburgh.