Meet Nikita Patel, final year PhD student at the Centre for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics, and co-host of a youth panel at COP26.
Could you tell us a bit more about your research and what inspired you to pursue a PhD in pharmacology?
I am a final year PhD student supervised by Professor Christoph Thiemermann in the Centre for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics. My research is investigating new therapeutic approaches for trauma-associated haemorrhagic shock (severe blood loss), focusing on the multiple organ dysfunction syndrome which can ensue following a traumatic injury such as a road traffic accident, stabbing or shooting.
I was inspired to pursue this subject due to the shocking statistics (unintentional pun!) that someone dies of trauma every six seconds and there are more deaths caused by trauma than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined - yet there are no specific pharmacological interventions used in the clinic to prevent the onset of multiple organ dysfunction. Currently, the treatment strategies are supportive such as using a ventilator for lung damage or dialysis for kidney dysfunction or organ transplantation in the worst case scenario.
You co-hosted a youth panel event at COP26. How did you get involved and what was the event about?
I was invited to co-host the Countdown to Planet Zero Next-Gen Debate organised by the Society of Chemical Industry after participating in the STEM for Britain competition where entrants present their research in a lay poster format. My role as a co-host was to field questions from the live and virtual audiences and try to ensure they were understood by everyone. As someone who does not have a background in chemistry and climate change, if I did not understand the questions asked by the audience, then it was likely that many members of the audience also would not understand; highlighting how important science communication is as a skill.
The debate was organised following the results of a global survey that revealed 60% of young people feel overwhelmed by climate anxiety and the planet they are going to inherit. The panel event aimed at showcasing the work being carried out by young and innovative scientists to tackle the climate crisis; exploring the themes Fuels of the Future, Turning Waste into Gold, and Engineering Nature. To rewatch the event, the recording is available on the COP26 YouTube channel: Countdown to Planet Zero Combating climate change with chemistry | #COP26
What advice would you give to students wanting to complete a PhD?
My advice would be to thoroughly research the different PhD programmes available, in terms of the format, subject and location, to see what may suit you best, and contact the supervisor(s) to discuss the project further. This gives you the opportunity to find out more about the project goals and to get to know the supervisor(s) a little better (and the other team members if they are available). Also, mentally prepare yourself for the PhD to likely be a rollercoaster with plenty of ups and downs, but remember it will all be worth it in the end! I'm a strong believer in things happening for a reason, even if you may not see it at the time, so if you receive a rejection try not to let that put you off from applying elsewhere or trying again the following year if it is a specific PhD scheme (e.g. BHF, LIDo, MRC DTP, iCASE etc)!