My CRUK Clinical Research Fellow project title is: Understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying relapsed, refractory diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL).
Previously I was a Specialist Registrar in Haemato-Oncology at St Bartholomew’s Hospital.
Life at the Institute
The Barts Cancer Institute and the Centre for Haemato-Oncology are both world renowned institutions with highly developed resources. The impressive tissue bank linked to clinical data, next generation sequencing facilities and bioinformatic support have proved to be invaluable resources.
In addition, Charterhouse Square is a lovely place to work with plenty of cafés and restaurants nearby to do some quiet reading or meet friends after work.
I wouldn’t say that there is a typical day which is one of the great things about research and it is really up to you to decide how you plan your weeks/months. The general cycle is: planning experiments, carrying out experiments and analysing results. Alongside this there will be conferences and seminars to attend and present your work at, lab and supervisor meetings as well as teaching and invigilating responsibilities at the medical school.
The centre has an extremely supportive research orientated environment and the thing I most appreciate is how approachable and friendly everyone is, especially when starting off when it might seem as if you’re asking people a million questions a day. All my supervisors have been easy to talk to and given great advice which has made such a big difference.
It’s a really exciting and dynamic area to be working in at the moment with technologies such as next generation sequencing providing key insights into the mutations driving lymphoid malignancies. These new findings in turn have led to a number of promising new therapies leading the way for personalised medicine.
I wanted the opportunity to learn how to use these new technologies to focus on patients with DLBCL who unfortunately do not respond to standard treatments and die. Professor Fitzgibbon’s group with their strong track record of studying the genetic complexity and clonal evolution of germinal centre lymphomas was the ideal fit.
Doing a PhD is challenging and lab work can sometimes be frustrating especially if experiments are not working perfectly. As long as you keep going, be patient and know that there are plenty of wise heads around who have been there before, a solution is usually found.
I wish I'd known...
I wouldnt have done anything different and looked into things carefully when applying, but advice for those starting out would be: choose a project that you are genuinely interested in and a scientific question you really think is worthwhile answering - it will help motivate you during all the ups and downs of your research project. Also try find a supervisor where you feel a general rapportfinding a supervisor and group that you enjoy a good rapport with.
Being a clinician-scientist
It helps place laboratory work in a wider context and to recognise what the most pressing and relevant scientific questions are. You are uniquely placed to bring ideas, problems as well as solutions from the clinical world to the laboratory and vice versa.
It is also incredibly satisfying being on the cutting edge of translational medicine and the “bench to bedside” approach is very rewarding on a personal level. The biggest challenge is managing your time and juggling between the two without anything slipping-if there were 48h hours in the day that would be perfect.