Non-Clinical PhD Student
Meet Alis Hales. She’s doing a non-clinical PhD which is funded by Cancer Research UK, and the aim of her project is to develop ex vivo models for breast cancer, to define how differential tissue composition and mechanics drive genetic instability in breast cancer initiation.
What is your background?
I did my undergraduate degree at Imperial College London in biomedical sciences with a focus on Pharmacology. After this I went on to study a Master’s in Pharmacology at the University of Oxford.
What is the aim of your research?
During this project I aim to construct in vitro 3D-model environments that mimic low and high mammographic density tissue. I then aim to use this model to define how differential tissue composition and mechanics drive genetic instability in breast cancer initiation.
Who do you work / collaborate with?
I meet with my project supervisors Andrew Gilmore, Sacha Howell and Rob Clarke every few months to discuss the project, what I’m doing and where it’s going. This is important as Rob Clarke and Sacha Howell are based down the road at the Christie and the Oglesby Cancer Research Building, and therefore we have limited contact on a day-to-day basis. As Rob Clarke’s lab is more experienced and better placed to help me do some of my project, further down the line I will be spending some time in his lab when I move onto work involving primary cells.
Who is your PhD funded by?
My PhD is funded by Cancer Research UK.
Where is your PhD based?
My PhD is based in Manchester at the Michael Smith Building in the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell/Matrix Research.
The MCRC has links with multiple NHS trusts including the Christie Hospital, one of the largest cancer treatment centres in Europe. These links providing great translation from bench to bedside meaning that scientific discoveries can make real differences for patient treatment.
Non-Clinical PhD Student
Why did you apply to the MCRC PhD scheme?
I chose the MCRC PhD scheme as the MCRC is a world leading centre for excellence in cancer research and is well equipped with excellent laboratory and core facilities.
Furthermore, the MCRC has links with multiple NHS trusts including the Christie Hospital, one of the largest cancer treatment centres in Europe. These links providing great translation from bench to bedside meaning that scientific discoveries can make real differences for patient treatment.
I have spoken to many people who have said that their PhD data only really got flowing in their third year and they wished they had more time and therefore it is great that the MCRC offers a 4-year PhD scheme.
What have been your proudest moments so far?
I think my proudest moment thus far was when I received PhD offer. I had gotten to a point where I wasn’t sure if I was going to get a PhD and I might have to take a year out and so receiving that offer validated all my hard work and gave me the motivation I needed.
What opportunities has the MCRC provided you with?
There are lots of opportunities to attend seminars by both young and well-established researchers providing students with the opportunities to meet academics from a range of backgrounds with a wealth of knowledge.
What is it like working with your supervisor and team?
I am grateful to have a great supervisor who is very happy to support my research interests and allows me a lot of freedom in my research. I am also lucky to have a sociable and collaborative team who are happy to help out with experiments in the lab and go for socials after work. It is wonderful to be part of a team with a vast depth and breadth of research meaning there is always someone who can help you with a new technique or assist you in analysing your sometimes-strange data.
What do you hope to achieve whilst at the MCRC?
I am hoping to gain a grasp of a range of skills whilst at the MCRC to make me a well-rounded and competitive scientist for my future endeavours. I also hope to gain a publication in a high impact journal from my work as I have not had experience of publishing a paper before my PhD.
What are your plans/aspirations after your PhD?
I know that I would like to remain in the cancer research field after my PhD. At the moment, my plan is to combine my interests in pharmacology and breast cancer looking into new therapeutics for both the prevention and treatment of breast cancer.