Tell us a bit about yourself – what stage of your PhD are you in and what’s your project about?Hi! I am Ellie and I am 24 and in my final (3rd) year of my PhD. My research for my PhD is investigation a protein, named S100P, which is implicated in pancreatic cancer. S100P interacts with a receptor, which induces cell proliferation, invasion and metastasis. In cancer, there are more S100P than usual, so therefore, there are more interactions with the receptor so a greater rate of cell proliferation, invasion and metastasis. In cancer, this is what you want to stop/ slow down so I am looking at compounds that are predicted to inhibit the interaction between and S100P and the receptor so cell growth slows down and treatments like chemotherapy have a chance to work. I am using techniques such as NMR and ELISA assays to see if the compounds are binding to S100P and if so, how strongly, how many and where. From the information we gain, we can re-design drugs that will work better and have a more specific, stronger interaction!
What does a typical day or week look like for you?I’d say the hours of my typical week are like a standard 9-5 job. I usually start around 8/9 and finish around 4/5 (can be later if experiments are not going well or taking longer than they should! I am really good at planning so I can keep to a routine (though, its very rare that things go to plan in science). I’d say I am in the lab 80% of the time, and reading the other 20%. I also work as a technical assistant in Microbiology and Chemistry/Pharmaceutics on Thursday and Fridays, and demonstrate in undergraduate practicals around 8 hours a week, so it can get very busy! I do go into the lab on Sunday most weeks, just to do a few hours of prep so it makes the week run more smoothly! Socially, I try and see my close in the evenings and weekends as much as possible. Sometimes it is hard when there is so much work to do!
What’s one thing that you’ve enjoyed the most during your PhD?Definitely developing my lab skills! I love being in the lab. I really struggled at the beginning and now I am so comfortable, so it is nice to see the progression.
What’s been the most challenging part of it?Writing has always been difficult for me. I find it really tedious, and I find it hard to express what I want to say. I also struggled from the transition from undergraduate degree, straight into PhD… did not realise the jump would be so massive!
Where do you see yourself 5 years after completing your PhD?I have a few ideas. I’d like to go into industry (rather than academia) and work in a big lab, in a similar field to what I am doing now. My dream, which is more unrealistic is to become a science presenter on TV!
What’s one piece of advice that you’d offer students that are thinking of doing a PhD?I’d honestly say that if you love research and you’re familiar with the environment, then go for it! If you’re unsure, see if you can get experience in a lab first to see if you enjoy it. It is a massive commitment and requires a lot of work and self motivation. But is honestly one of the best things I have done, in terms of advancing my knowledge and personal skills.
What makes your university a good place to study?It is really friendly and the academics are honestly so lovely and helpful. The facilities are good and the technical staff are great, so if you ever have a problem, they’re always there to help! Just a great environment.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?Hanging with friends, going for food, travelling, social sport and watching Netflix. I used to love going out to clubs/bars but I have definitely mellowed out now and just love to chill!
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