Rob Bristow is one of the first faces you may associate with the Manchester Cancer Research Centre. We wanted to find out a little more about him.
Where are you from/why did you move to Manchester?
I am from Toronto and I moved to Manchester based on an incredible opportunity: to be involved in a new strategy of bringing clinical ideas and basic discovery research together to change how we treat patients. It was so exciting to me because you don’t always get an opportunity to create such a large overall strategic plan.
What made you want to work for the MCRC?
The people that I met when I was being recruited all were committed to an ambition whereby the MCRC was going to be home to a world renowned cancer programme.
Furthermore, the fact that the University and Cancer Research UK and other cancer funders, and The Christie hospital, along with the other trusts, were so willing to work together. They had something already in place, under the former leadership of Nic Jones, to actually build on that ambition.
That was why I wanted to come and work here. And I’ve never regretted it since.
What are the three words that describe your job?
- Uplifting - there’s a personal uplift, there’s a team uplift and sometimes it’s an emotional uplift towards exemplar science.
A fourth word if I would be allowed it, is opportunistic.
What’s your favourite part of the working day?
It’s doing the Town Halls [large meetings where researchers from across Manchester come together to develop new research ideas] and then meeting afterwards to discuss the ideas that came out of the Town Halls. It’s the most creative element to the strategic plan, in a sense, whereby you can’t predict what’s going to come out after those two hours.
You have no idea how much a patient’s statement or experience is going to be play a role in the final idea. In at least two of the Town Halls it’s been very patient directed in terms of the ambitious research programme that we select. To me that’s exhilarating because it really means that the scientists and clinicians and researchers are listening to the patients’ needs. Patients feel they have a voice to change things, so it’s very empowering for the entire group.
To then see the science that comes out of these meetings, and push that ambition to be something that makes an external international expert say “Hey, this is going to further put Manchester on the international map even more.” is really exciting.
It’s that Team Science strategic component - when I get to do that during the day, no matter what else happens, I leave feeling really happy that everybody else leaves happy. Everybody has something to do, in a way that they hadn’t thought about before. In a job that has an administrative aspect to it, any time I get to be creative and have time for thinking and ‘brain time’, is the best part of the day.