Dr Lara Boyd
After completing my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at Imperial College, I undertook my PhD training at the MRC Genome Damage and Stability Centre at the University of Sussex, working on DNA repair proteins in the yeast model organism S. pombe. Keen to continue research in the DNA repair/cancer field, I decided to look for a post-doctoral position with a more clinical focus on basic science. The Barts Cancer Institute provided the ideal setting for this.
Here at the BCI, I work in Dr Yong-Jie Lu’s research group, which focuses primarily on prostate cancer genetics. My project uses high-resolution genome-wide approaches, such as next-generation sequencing and SNP 6.0 array analysis to identify recurrent chromosome breakpoints and associated genes in prostate cancer, which may have diagnostic and/or therapeutic value.
Life at the Institute
The BCI provides a stimulating environment in which to develop as a researcher. It’s great to be able to work in an institute that mixes both basic and translational science, as it means that you are always aware of the bigger picture - something that can often get lost when you work at the molecular level. The Institute itself is equipped with state-of-the-art technology, meaning that you are never constrained in the research that you can carry out. Aside from the science, the BCI is a great environment in which to work-Charterhouse Square is a green haven amid the grey backdrop of the City!
The obvious answer for this is ‘the moment my first paper was accepted for publication’ or ‘the first time I presented data at an international conference’, but another of my greatest highlights has been taking part in the Great River Race. As part of the 10-man BCI dragon boat team, we ‘paddled’ our way along the 21-mile course on a wet and windy September morning, raising £10,000 for charity. It was a fantastic experience and one that I will never forget!
Life at the institute hasn’t been without its problems. Looking back, the biggest moment, or perhaps I should say period, of despair was when I was using a PCR-based technique for molecular copy-number counting. After weeks of successful results, the technique stopped working. As a scientist, it is hard to accept that sometimes logic seems to play no part in science!
I wish I had known just how diverse the role of a post-doc can be. Aside from the usual experiments and data analysis that I had expected from the role, my days can consist of anything from writing/reviewing manuscripts and grants, presenting data at national and international conferences, mentoring PhD and MSc students to interacting with companies and testing newly developed technologies. It’s great to be able to have such variety in a job and to develop skills that I didn’t even know I had!
I am now 2½ years into my first post-doc and the time has flown by. Pursuing a successful career in research requires real strength and determination and I still have a lot to learn. Fingers crossed, I will have my contract renewed with Dr. Lu, enabling me to continue to work here at the BCI for a few more years.