A day in the life of: A PhD Research Student


If you’ve been on to Facebook recently then chances are you’ve seen the latest brand awareness video from Children’s Medical Research Institute, highlighting the emotional journey experienced when the birth of your child does not go as expected.

The video has received such an overwhelming response with more than 3 million views worldwide we have been overwhelmed with the response & are thrilled that we can continues to spread our message of the importance of medical research & the impact we can have in curing childhood diseases.

BUT have you ever wondered what it’s like to take one step back & to get an insight in to one of our many research laboratories & to find out where the journey really begins?

We’ve gone being the scenes in our CMRI Cell Cycle Unit to speak with Dadar Pirshahid, PhD Student, to get an insight into day to-day life as a PhD student in the lab, what makes him tick & an insight in to how different his future would have been had he not pursued a career in science…


1. What or who inspired you to become a researcher?

I enjoy learning and I love solving puzzles. In day to day life you can learn everything there is to be known about a particular field and make inferences about what might logically follow in the realm of unexplored knowledge. I wanted to become a researcher because it meant that I didn’t have to be contented with making inferences, I could actually test if my inferences are correct and ultimately push the borders of knowledge and understanding.

2. Describe your typical day?

My typical day revolves around my model of study. I conduct all my experiments on human cancer cells grown in a dish. I have to care for these cells on a daily basis by ensuring that they have access to all the necessary nutrients they need to survive and proliferate. On particular days I will make alterations to the genetics of these human cancer cells and then look at them under a high powered microscope to see if their ‘cancer-like-behaviour’ is affected. I spend a lot of time on microscopes observing these cancer cells dividing and I spend even more time on computers for analysis of the images I take on the microscope. Most days I will be reading scientific articles published by other scientists from around the world working on similar projects so that I may interpret how the genetic alterations I study might affect cancer cells and what this means for developing treatments for cancer.

3. What’s the best & worst thing about life in the lab?

The best thing about life in the lab is the freedom you have with your time. So long as you are productive there is not much pressure to work within particular hours and so you can work at hours that suit your lifestyle. The worst thing about life in the lab is the cost of this freedom. We may not need to work ‘9-5’ hours BUT we do work more hours than a typical full time job would demand without any kind of overtime remuneration. The productivity expectations placed on us often mean that we have to work long hours during the week and even on the weekend.

4. What’s the most interesting / surprising thing you have discovered as a researcher?

The most interesting thing I have discovered as a researcher is that a single amino acid mutation in the protein Sorting Nexin 9 can have dramatic effects on the functionality of the protein and has disastrous repercussions for the survival of cancer cells. The purpose of my body of research is to determine why and how this is.

5. What are your hobbies when you’re not in the lab?

I thoroughly enjoy board games and a stiff drink at every opportunity.

6. If you hadn’t become a researcher, what would you like to be doing?

If I hadn’t become a researcher I would have become a lawyer. Most assuredly I would have been less happy but I would have copious money to salve my sadness.


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