Welcome to our new PhD and postgraduate students
At the MCRC, University of Manchester & CRUK Manchester Centre Hybrid Welcome Event for our new PhD and postgraduate students, our current PhD students and staff shared their research highlights and top tips for carrying out a successful PhD in Manchester.
“Make as much out of your time here as you can”
With a warm welcome from the Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC) and CRUK Manchester Centre Postgraduate Programme Manager, Dr Georgina Binnie-Wright, current postgraduate researchers provided a fascinating overview of their research, highlighting the diversity of funding and opportunities, and why they chose to conduct their PhD in Manchester.
Tom Kedward, a Non-Clinical NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) PhD funded 4th year student, is part of Professor Rob Clarke’s lab, and is looking into connecting somatic mutations to signalling using proteogenomics in patient-derived breast organoids. Tom was awarded the presidential scholarship for his PhD to develop his research leadership and management skills, and was also selected to present a poster at the European Network for Breast Development and Cancer (ENBDC) workshop, as well as a talk in their online seminar series.
George Morrisey, a Clinical Research Training Fellow whose PhD is funded by the CRUK Clinical Academic Training Award, is investigating resistance to G12C inhibitors in KRAS G12C mutant non- small-cell lung cancer. As a clinician undertaking full-time training that will lead to the award of a PhD, George is based in both the laboratory and clinic and has two supervisors: Professor Angeliki Malliri, in the Cell Signalling group, is his laboratory-based supervisor, and Dr Colin Lindsay, Clinical Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in Thoracic Medical Oncology, is his clinical supervisor.
Macarena Fernandez Carro is a CRUK Clinical Academic Training Award-funded MB-PhD student working with Dr Adam Hurlstone. The MB-PhD training route enables aspiring clinician scientists to undertake the vocational training of a medical degree in tandem with the research expertise of a PhD in Cancer Sciences, leading to the awards of MBChB and PhD. Her PhD project is looking into exploiting tumour-promoting paracrine signals in solid cancers to boost genetically redirect T cells. By engineering CAR T cells to overcome the hostile tumour microenvironment, her project aims to improve CAR T cell therapy for solid tumours.
Mairead Daly is a Research Radiographer with Dr Cynthia Eccles, and before starting her PhD in Manchester she previously worked as a therapeutic radiographer at University College London Hospitals NHS Trust. Mairead’s PhD is funded by Cancer Research UK RadNet Manchester who are supporting the development of the next generation of radiographers through their Allied Health Professional Doctoral Academy. She is part of the Advanced Radiotherapy research group, supervised by core members of the Allied Health Professionals (AHP) Academic Hub and colleagues from the Radiotherapy Related Research (RRR) group and MCRC. Mairead is evaluating motion management strategies for radiotherapy across multiple platforms, including the MR-linac, proton beam therapy, and conventional Linac.
“This is Manchester. We do things differently here”
So why did our current students decide to carry out their PhD studies in Manchester? As one student quoted the famous line, “This is Manchester. We do things differently here”. It is a vibrant city, with a rich history, and has recently been voted 3rd best city in the world by TimeOut. The co-location of the MCRC with The University of Manchester, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust means scientists, clinicians, patients and the public can collaborate together in a diverse ecosystem to drive cancer research and innovation in Manchester.
One Manchester: Team Science
Academic staff also gave helpful information and advice to the students who were attending virtually and in-person, including talks by Professor Robert Bristow, MCRC and CRUK Manchester Centre Director, Rachel Chown, Cancer Education and Development Lead, Professor Stephen Taylor, Head of Division of Cancer Sciences (DCS) and Dr Andrew Gilmore, DCS Postgraduate Research Director. Professor Dean Jackson, MCRC Education Non-Clinical Chair, emphasised the support network and continuum of development throughout a researcher’s academic career. Professor Andrew Renehan, MCRC Education Clinical Chair, highlighted the Team Science approach at Manchester – collaborating not only with researchers across basic, translational and clinical science, but also with patients and the public to drive innovative and practice-changing cancer care at an international level.
Top tips from our researchers
Based on their experiences, our researchers shared useful learnings and tips for new trainees.
Organisation. Always plan ahead. Plan often. Fewer experiments that are well thought out are better than more. Always keep your scientific question in mind. And keep your lab book updated – you will probably forget those small details you think you will remember!
Communication. Build an open communication channel with your supervisory team and find a schedule that works for both of you.
Self-care. Remember things will go wrong, so it is important to find coping strategies outside of work. Take time for yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – it’s ok to not be ok.
Opportunities. 3-4 years isn’t as long as you think so make as much out of your time here! Always try to capitalise on other learning opportunities, such as seminars, presentations and courses, and try to get out of your comfort zone.