Meet Sheila Barasa from Barts Cancer Institute, who is undertaking a PhD in high grade serious ovarian cancer.
Could you tell us about a bit more about your study subject and what inspired you to pursue a PhD in cancer research?
I am a PhD student on the Medical Research Council Doctoral Training Partnership Programme in Dr Jun Wang’s, Professor Fran Balkwill's and Dr Lovorka Stojic's labs at the Barts Cancer Institute. My project focuses on characterising disease-associated long non-coding RNAs in high grade serous ovarian cancer. I employ a combination of bioinformatics and wet lab experimental components to do this.
Whilst contemplating my next career move post-BSc, I was placed on the Chemotherapy Day Unit at Barts Hospital in the role of a Nursing Assistant. I was humbled by the illness and fascinated by the science to the extent that I used up all my study days (attending cancer workshops) for that year in three months. The following autumn, I embarked on my cancer PhD quest at Barts Cancer Institute.
You are the Queen Mary Ximbassador for Cancer Research UK. What does this entail?
In this role, I engaged academic researchers within Queen Mary to identify and assist in disclosing novel Life Science reagents, for commercial use at Cancer Research UK Commercial Partnerships - Ximbio. I sourced novel inventions for commercialisation and solicited and assisted in filing Non-Disclosure Agreements from researchers to Queen Mary’s Technology Transfer Office. I also networked within Queen Mary and delivered presentations to ~100 researchers and directors that raised brand awareness. I was thrilled to have been exposed to and directly involved in the varied translational work being carried out across the University.
What advice would you give to students keen to follow in your footsteps?
- Always have a plan and timeline to achieve your goal. Factor in time for researching the role and acquiring the respective additional skills/ experience. This will increase your leverage when applying for PhD programmes.
- Networking is key. Maximise the resources at your disposal. This could be your current lecturers, tutors, careers service, and most importantly, your peers. Recruiters are also happy to answer your questions. If you're unsure, simply ask.
- Put your best foot forward and aim high. If you experience a setback, obtain feedback, and use this to sharpen your arsenal. This too shall pass. Repeat steps 1 to 3 and try to enjoy the process. Hopefully, things will work out.