Going Going Back Back to Boston

Well, I’m back. My PULSE assignment has concluded, I’m back on East Coast time, and I’m back at GSK. On the flight home I was reflecting on my assignment and felt like it fit right in to the mold of the perfect story. Remember learning about Shakespeare and dramatic structure back in school? If not, see the beautiful graphic of Freytag’s pyramid I drew below. If it makes you want to commission me to do some family portraits or paintings of fruit for you, just know that I’m very expensive and my portfolio mostly consists of stick figures.img_7438

While I wouldn’t recommend making my story in to a film(I don’t think it would play well on the silver screen) I still found it fit well in this way of thinking.  My inciting incident was during my PULSE interview when I was fortunate to hear about an opportunity that would take me to Seattle.  The backstory is that I originally had planned on doing a home assignment and so the exciting potential of going to Seattle was this unexpected twist. It brought with it a lot more planning and preparations than a home assignment would have and as with anything new both the excitement and anxiety that comes along with it. I even had those moments of, this is too much, I don’t think I can make this work. But I found out I was matched with PATH on an assignment to help advance RSV vaccine discovery and off I went.

Fast forward a few months, I got settled in Seattle, got used to a new way of life, learned about the project, learned about PATH, and all the sudden it’s halfway through my assignment when I reached the climax of the story.  Some of the big pieces of the project were starting to come together and it looked like I was going to be able to make an important contribution to the work my team was doing. And just as soon as that happened, it was time to start planning for the transition back to GSK and away from PATH.  In that moment I remember thinking, I’m not ready for the downward slope of my story. I wanted it to be like a movie that went on an hour too long (see The Hobbit for reference). But then my very last week at PATH, we were able to get the last part of the project out the door. And so I realized I was at the resolution of my time there. And in this story, the denouement for the protagonist(me) is that I ended up in a better place than I was at the beginning of my story. My experience was refreshing, fulfilling, life changing and something that would not have been possible if not for the cast of supporting characters.

My family and friends were amazing and supportive.  My PULSE village and PULSE team were there every step of the way.  My GSK colleagues and friends gave me this to ensure it would go well:new-gum






And my PATH colleagues were equally supportive and taught me so much. Turns out, the gum was not needed.

Left image: my primary PATH colleagues, Deborah Higgins and Nancy Hosken. Right image: my fellow GSK PULSEr Brett Blackwell. Hi Brett!

I traveled, I ate new things, I lived in a different way, and I got to stare at this every day while doing it.


It’s a priceless experience to be able to volunteer somewhere but still be able to support your needs in life. And when your time is limited in a new place it forces you to get out there and see things that you might take for granted if you always lived there. If you are someone thinking about doing a PULSE assignment but aren’t sure, do it! You still have 4 days to get your application in and it will change your life! Apply here!















  1. Caitlin…..great post and so glad to learn more about your assignment. I am back from Vietnam and questioning why our society is the way we are….we have everything yet most people your experience was so

  2. Caitlin – welcome back! Glad to know that you ended your assignment on a high note and that you had a fulfilling experience! Sending you best wishes on your re-entry and good vibes for the next part of your learning back at GSK! 🙂

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