A day in the life of… A cancer researcher

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What inspired you to become a researcher?
I was inspired to be a medical researcher to be part of a combined international effort to discover new ways of treating cancer that are both more effective and with fewer side effect.

Describe a day in the life of a researcher?
A typical day begins with checking emails and seeing what new data has been published over a cup of coffee. I will then start my experiments, which can range from knocking out proteins in cancer cells and seeing if they survive, or determining how DNA folded using biophysical techniques. Depending on the day I may have a lab meeting or student society event as well. I finish by updating my lab book with my data and preparing for tomorrow’s experiments.

What’s the best & worst thing about life in the lab?
The best thing about my job is unravelling how cancer cells work, which may potentially identify targets for new anti-cancer drugs with fewer side effects. Working with other brilliant scientists and administrative staff is another amazing part of my job.

The worst thing, by far, is funding instability, which diverts the scientist’s attention away from trying to discover new breakthroughs to being concerned about keeping the lab financially afloat and constant grant writing.

What’s the most interesting thing you have discovered as a researcher?
In some early work I showed that a single mutation in a protein called telomerase significantly reduced its ability to bind DNA. This is important because telomerase binding to DNA allows cells to become immortal, a characteristic of cancer. This specific region may be a potential target for drugs targeting telomerase.

If you hadn’t become a researcher, what would you like to be doing?
I would have been a lawyer.

 

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