Nathan Mistry

The effect of lifestyle stresses on skin barrier and oral cavity health
University of Hertfordshire
Hi! Tell us a bit about yourself – what stage of your PhD are you in and what’s your project about?

Hi everyone! My name is Nathan and I’m about to go into my 2nd year of my PhD at the University of Hertfordshire. I’m on an industrial partnership PhD programme working in collaboration with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). I’m interested in how lifestyle stresses can impact skin barrier biophysics and skin barrier and oral cavity biochemistry and microbiology. We will explore this by carrying out mechanistic in vivo studies in humans with the overall goal of providing a fundamental understanding of how skin barrier and oral cavity health may be challenged by particular lifestyle stresses.

What does a typical day or week look like for you?

My typical workday starts at 7:30am and finishes around 5:30pm. I prefer starting earlier in the morning as I’m far more productive and shared workspaces tend to be quieter. My typical week currently is spent at my computer planning my experiments and writing up ethics to carry out human studies. However, each week can vary and in the coming months more time will be spent running experiments in the laboratory, data collecting for the human studies and subsequently analysing samples in the laboratory. I try not to work on weekends as I tend to work longer hours during the week, and I feel it’s important to have time away from work. If I do work on a weekend this will tend to be more casual and I will just do a couple hours to get some things set for the coming week.

What’s one thing that you’ve enjoyed the most during your PhD?

Seeing my research plan develop! It started with a broad research area and multiple directions that the PhD could go. Now, my research questions are defined, I have a good grasp on the current literature, I have planned my methodology for my first human study, my ethics is near completion and I am planning a series of initial experiments to conduct in the laboratory. Satisfying feeling of progression!

What’s been the most challenging part of it?

Starting a PhD in a research area I was not that familiar with was definitely a challenge to begin with. However, help and guidance from my supervisors, many hours reading and writing a literature review was really useful and I now have a good grasp on my research area that I am genuinely interested in.

Where do you see yourself 5 years after completing your PhD?
At this point I’m keeping myself open to various options, though I do time to time explore job advertisements of interest to get an idea on what they require. An industry scientist/researcher role or postdoctoral researcher are my preferred options currently. I have a genuine interest in science and research so hopefully in my future career I will be involved in research.

What’s one piece of advice that you’d offer students that are thinking of doing a PhD?
Although this may seem obvious, I would say make sure you want to do it and make sure you want to do it for the right reasons. The application and interview procedures alone can be difficult and very time consuming. Make sure you have a genuine interest/passion for what you are doing. A PhD is a long process, if you aren’t interested in aspects of the project it will be hard to stay motivated.

What makes your university a good place to study?

As a researcher I have found it is a really friendly and supportive environment. It has great facilities and brand-new science building. The academic and research staff are helpful and supportive. The University of Hertfordshire also provides great opportunities for prospective researchers for collaborating and working with external industry partners. Overall, I have had a very positive experience so far!

Lastly, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I spend a lot of my free time in London, meeting up with friends going for a coffee, getting some food and shopping. I am interested in fashion and love trying new food so London is perfect for this! I also enjoy cooking, going to the gym, going for walks and occasionally watching tv series and films.

Want to learn more about Nathan?

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