2015: Martijn van de Bunt
Whilst studying medicine at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands (2003-2009), I developed a keen interest in diabetes and research. I began to volunteer in a lab alongside my medical training, working on the effects of diabetes on coagulation and wound healing. This initial foray into the world of research led to my first visit to Oxford in 2007 – a 6-month research placement at the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism (OCDEM) in the lab of Professor Anna Gloyn – after which I completed my clinical training in Amsterdam.
Seemingly unable to stay away from a research environment, 2010 saw me return to Oxford on a Nuffield Department of Medicine Prize Studentship to pursue a DPhil under the supervision of Professors Anna Gloyn and Mark McCarthy. My research has focussed on characterizing the processes which regulate gene expression in human pancreatic islets, helping to identify causal mechanisms underlying type 2 diabetes (T2D) susceptibility loci discovered through genome-wide association studies. By uncovering previously unknown genes and pathways involved in T2D, my work ultimately aims to improve patients’ lives by providing novel therapeutic options. Involvement in a wide range of projects has resulted in 20 (co-)authored publications, including two first-author papers in PLOS Genetics. In 2014 I was awarded a prestigious American Society for Human Genetics Charles J. Epstein Trainee Award for Excellence in Human Genetics Research for my work on understanding the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes through detailed gene expression analysis of human islets.
My studentship was a fantastic experience, during which is enjoyed a research environment that was both intellectually stimulating and filled with friendly people. It has allowed me to build upon my clinical perspective with a strong experimental and computational skill set, and ultimately persuaded me to move away from clinical practice and focus solely on basic research. In my current position as a Novo Nordisk postdoctoral research fellow based at OCDEM and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, I have taken the first step towards becoming an independent research leader.