Please introduce yourself and what you are currently doing
I am a medical science junior research fellow with the Oxford Centre for Personalised Medicine (CPM) – an outreach centre formed in partnership between St Anne’s College and the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics (WCHG). I support initiatives to promote a deeper understanding of both scientific advances and societal challenges posed by incorporating genomics and other ‘big data’ into medicine.
When did you join St Anne’s and how have you found your time at the College?
I joined St Anne’s as a JRF in Hilary term of 2018 while I was also a postdoctoral fellow at the WCHG. I’ve greatly enjoyed my time at St. Anne’s as it has been an absolute pleasure to be part of such a diverse, creative and friendly community of student scholars, faculty, and staff.
What is your favourite place in Oxford?
Hard to say. Oxford is such a beautiful place. I do enjoy running through Port Meadow, at least when it’s not flooded!
What is your specialist subject and how did you become interested in this area?
I investigate the genetic basis of metabolic disease, particularly type 2 diabetes. In many ways, type 2 diabetes is the archetype of a complex human disease in that it’s influenced by both environmental risk factors (i.e. poor diet, sedentary lifestyle) and our genetics. In fact, there are over 400 genetic risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes! My work focuses on resolving the genes and biological processes by which these genetic variants influence disease risk.
Have you found any challenges working in academia? If so, how have you overcome them?
As a scientist, I regularly encounter two key challenges: uncertainty and failure. For example, there is always uncertainty in not knowing how an experiment will turn out or if a manuscript will be accepted, and I am no stranger to failed experiments and rejection letters. However, it is important to remember that it’s really hard to discover new things about the natural world (otherwise someone else would have already solved your research question). These challenges are par for the course but it is immensely rewarding to discover and share new knowledge. To counter uncertainty and failure, I find it helpful to build solidarity with my fellow colleagues who are working through similar challenges and to maintain a sense of gratitude for the privilege of tackling fascinating questions.
What is your advice for any others looking to pursue academia?
Saying “yes” to interesting research questions and opportunities can be exciting, but saying “no” can be liberating in that it gives you more time and energy to focus your efforts. Take the time to reflect on the questions you find most interesting and direct your efforts towards seeing them through.
Have you joined St Anne’s from another institution? If so where and how do you find the two places differ?
I earned my PhD at the University of Chicago. Although I’ve enjoyed being a scholar at both institutions, I do appreciate the vibrant exchange of ideas that comes from being in an interconnected community as intellectually diverse as St Anne’s. It also helps that there aren’t many blizzards or “Snowmageddons” in Oxford.
What is your favourite way to relax?
During the recent lockdowns I have come to the realisation that I am a “teahead” and I now relish my daily sessions with aromatic oolongs and umami-rich senchas.