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I undertook my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science at the University of Manchester, where I specialised in cell biology and cell signaling, providing me with a strong foundation for my subsequent research career. The degree also provided the valuable opportunity to gain extended experience in professional research environments, in my case a year spent at AstraZeneca. This was my first real experience of research and the skills gained during this time led me to define my own final year project. The project enabled me to utilise my skills in electrophysiology, gained during my year in industry, while continuing to develop an independent and critical style.

I began my PhD in Professor Rajesh Thakker’s laboratory based in the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism (OCDEM) in 2008. My choice of PhD was based on an active decision to diversify my portfolio of techniques and the opportunity to work on the molecular basis of disease. During the first year of my PhD I was able to work on several projects, exposing me to a wide range of experimental procedures. I chose to focus my research on one project in particular, developing cell-lines derived from patients with a heritable renal disorder, to help understand its molecular basis. During the early part of this project I undertook work within a laboratory in The Netherlands, allowing me exposure to a different laboratory environment and different points of view, both of which are critical for scientific research. I subsequently set-up the techniques I learnt in my laboratory in Oxford. The initial observations made in these studies helped shape my choice of further experiments and encouraged further collaboration within the Universities of Oxford and Leeds to obtain skills in imaging techniques. This main part of my PhD project culminated in a first author publication in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While awaiting examination of my PhD thesis, I drove a research project involving investigation of a novel mutation in a cytokine receptor. This allowed me to gain new skills in phosphorylation biology, and receptor-ligand interactions. This has led to acceptance of a manuscript for publication in The New England Journal of Medicine and subsequent studies of the receptor.

My experience of pursuing a PhD within the Radcliffe Department of Medicine has encouraged me to think critically and independently. This has also helped me gain confidence in my research and in its presentation, and it has motivated me to continue my scientific career.