Hi! My name is Maria and I am currently a 2nd-year student at Royal Holloway University of London, where I study Psychology. I come from Madrid in Spain, but I have been living in England for the last two years of my life. During these two years, I have worked as a student ambassador in my university, volunteered with a Thursday club in my local area as well as with a mental health awareness NGO and I have also taken a research assistant position with a lecturer from my department in Royal Holloway.

During these two last weeks of August, I will be getting involved with the AKU Society in developing a database with existing research on alkaptonuria. This database will include research on AKU, the name of the institutions involved, as well demographic information and years of publication. This will hopefully help create a wider network of AKU centres, expanding the knowledge on alkaptonuria as well as facilitating communication between organisations. I am incredibly excited to have been given this opportunity and I will make sure to make the most out of my stay here in Cambridge.

During my role as a research assistant at my university, I have learnt how much impact research can have on patients’ lives. This is one of the main reasons I decided to apply for the opportunity offered by the AKU Society, to help create a stronger relationship between existing research and patient support. I strongly believe that a better and further understanding of research can really benefit patient wellbeing, which is obviously the ultimate goal. Helping a smaller organisation that wants to raise awareness of a rare disease was also one of the things I found most attractive about the role. I really liked the idea of taking part in something that could actually have a positive impact on people’s lives.

In this role, I hope to be able to cover as much of the existing research as possible and to manage to find new organisations the AKU Society could start engaging with, both to benefit from and aid. Lastly, I hope to be able to provide a useful overview that could be used as a guide for the development of AKU research throughout the years.

I think I could get many things out of this role. This opportunity will also allow me to achieve a better understanding of alkaptonuria, both from a medical and patient perspective, and to learn about the different processes that take place in a patient and research-focused organisation. Learning to work with a deadline and schedule outside of an academic setting also seems like a great opportunity to familiarise myself with an office environment.

Outside of work and my academic life, I consider myself open to many types of experiences. I love simple things such as hanging out with my friends, reading or going out to the cinema, but I am also very interested in any adrenaline focused activities. I am incredibly keen to try sky-diving and any related sports and I will actually be trying out bungee jumping for the first time in a few weeks! I am also very passionate about travelling and food, and I hope to be able to experience as many cultures and types of cuisine as I possibly can.