- Course: 4-year British Heart Foundation PhD Programme
- Why did you choose to come to Leeds University to complete your PhD (did you study her previously)?
I knew I enjoyed research after completing my undergraduate research project and yearlong industrial placement. I have always had a keen interest in the cardiovascular system. During my industrial placement year I worked on using stem cell cardiomyocytes for cardiotoxicity screening of novel compounds. My interests into cardiovascular research grew as I undertook an undergraduate research project into creating and validating a new in vitro model to study the formation and growth of new blood vessels.
I was drawn to the University of Leeds because of its collaborative environment. While carrying out a summer research placement at the University of Sheffield, in collaboration with the University of Leeds, I experienced first-hand the importance and power of collaborations when investigating and answering scientific questions.
- What are you enjoying about your research programme?
I really enjoy my programme as it is a 4-year structured PhD. The foundation year of my PhD has enabled me to learn a wide range of practical techniques and skills, including both experimental and computational methods.
In addition to experimental skills, the foundation year involves a series of academic lectures which are highly engaging and lead by academics and clinicians at the forefront of research. For example, lectures on the vascular pathology of stroke and the challenges of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, really stood out for me. Alongside these taught lectures we also had a clinical observation series, where we shadowed clinicians at Leeds Teaching Hospitals in cardiology, stroke and diabetes. These were eye opening and gave clinical context to our research.
- What have been the highlights of the PhD so far (conferences, travel, facilities, supportive staff, independent research etc).?
My PhD has been enriched by attending and presenting my work at conferences, such as the institute’s annual endothelial and MRCP conferences, 2019. I particularly enjoyed presenting at the annual student BHF conference at Imperial College London, 2019.
- What are you finding is the greatest challenge you are/have experienced on your PhD?
Personally over the last year I have learnt to build resilience for when my research doesn’t go as planned. Research takes time and you have to preserver and prioritise your time and experiments. I now recognise that it is important to take a step back and plan what is essential and what can wait (or be done by someone else).
- What is your research project on and what does it involve?
I am studying the long-term consequences of bone-marrow ischaemia in the context of type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Peripheral vascular disease is a serious and common complication of atherosclerosis. Obesity and type 2 diabetes are two factors that can accelerate atherosclerosis. Peripheral vascular disease is widely recognised to cause a series of complications such as chronic ulcers, obstruction of the arteries thus muscle pain and cramping which result in muscle ischaemia. Atherosclerosis is also known to cause alterations in the bone marrow perfusion, however, functional effects of atherosclerosis on the bone marrow is unknown. This is where my PhD project comes in.
During my PhD I aim to define: the long-term consequences of bone marrow structure and composition during ischaemia, whether ischaemia leads to profound immune cell changes and uncover the mechanisms of these structural and functional changes in the bone marrow. By investigating the systemic effects of peripheral vascular disease we aim to reduce the morbidity and mortality of patients with peripheral vascular disease.
- How do you think doing a PhD has benefited/will benefit you in the future?
Doing a PhD has already allowed me to learn a wide variety of techniques and develop as an independent researcher, which will undoubtedly make me more employable. This is also critical for enabling me to produce publications and pursue a career in academia.
- How would you rate the facilities available to you throughout your PhD? How have these enhanced your experience?
My work involves using high resolution confocal and light sheet fluorescent microscopy in the Faculty of Biological Sciences imaging centre. The Bioimaging facilities are brilliant in Leeds, this is apparent from the high level of research carried out at the University. Testament to this, an image taken from my supervisor, Richard Cubbon’s laboratory has been short listed for the BHF Reflections of Research image competition 2019.
About the University
- Why did you choose the University of Leeds?
The university is world leading for scientific research and the atmosphere in the Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine (LICAMM) reflects this. LICAMM has a large and friendly community of PhD students and staff from all disciplines of cardiovascular research, which I really enjoy being a part of.
Additionally, the British Heart Foundation PhD program offered here gives you a great opportunity to learn different techniques and offers in-depth lecture series’ throughout the first year before settling on your chosen project. This helps you both to learn new things that you might not have otherwise been exposed to, and gives you confidence that the PhD project you have chosen is right for you.
Outside of the lab, the university student union and postgraduate school hold various events during the induction week and throughout the academic year, to help you meet like-minded post graduate researchers. Leeds is a vibrant city full of lots of interesting events and activities besides shopping and eating. The city hosts parades such as pride, small festivals for food, music and arts which are great for new PhD students to get stuck into.
- What have been the highlights of your time at the University of Leeds?
The lovely and inspiring people I have met inside and outside of LICAMM during events held by the university, such as the Faculty of Medicine and Health International Women’s Day event.
- How have the facilities (libraries/labs etc.) helped you get the most out of your PhD programme?
The University and LICAMM have an impressive and wide range of equipment and facilities available to use for post graduate researchers. Training and staff supervision are available at all times in the facilities, which is incredibly helpful and invaluable for PhD students.
Around times of written deadlines during my PhD I have found there is lots of choice in library facilities on campus. I have particularly found the postgraduate only level in the Edward Boyle library a really useful and positive environment to work in without distraction.
- What key aspects of your experience of Leeds would you highlight to students thinking about coming doing a PhD here?
The four-year BHF programme offers a unique three month laboratory placement, where students are encouraged to travel nationally and internationally to learn new techniques and skills in a lab which will benefit not only their PhD but also their personal development.
- What are your ambitions for the future? Do you have specific career plans? Has the University (careers centre/lecturers etc.) helped you with these goals in any way?
I would like to continue doing research in academia, and so I plan to apply for post-doctoral positions.