During my undergraduate studies in Biochemistry, at Imperial College London, I was exposed to many disciplines of medical science.
Immunology was the field that attracted me the most because it had broad-reaching implications into many of those medical science disciplines. My final year research project on infection and immunity paved the way for a research internship in a paediatric allergy and clinical immunology lab at the University of Athens, Greece. This created a thirst for a deeper knowledge in Immunology. I moved back to the UK and studied for an MSc in Integrated Immunology at the University of Oxford. This was an extremely rewarding experience that allowed me to interact with a range of medical science researchers from all over the UK. This course confirmed my ambition to pursue a research career in the field of immunology and, more specifically, auto-immunity. Having a number of PhD offers, I accepted an offer to read for a DPhil in Molecular Medicine at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology under the supervision of Professors Michael L. Dustin and Paul Bowness. The DPhil Studentships provided by the Kennedy Trust have made this possible.
T cells are one of the many cell types of the immune system. They are key in fighting infections and tumours and generally essential for the well being of the host. T cells can detect ‘threat signals’ or ‘disease signals’ from other cells that set them in action to contain the danger. In autoimmunity, environmental and/or genetic factors can drive T cells to mount detrimental responses for the host. My project is looking at what kind of ‘disease signals’ might promote such detrimental T cell responses. Using mainly fluorescent microscopy, I am monitoring signals integrated by T cells that might explain pathogenic mechanisms in a form of autoimmune arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis.
It has been a privilege to be a member of the diverse community of great scientists both within the Kennedy and across the University. On many occasions, the exciting array of world class visiting speakers has been very inspiring and it has created opportunities for collaborations. The link with NDORMS has also been key in developing many transferable skills whether general or specialised, ranging from poster presentation and statistical analysis to clinical trial courses. I am confident that my experience at the Kennedy will enable me to successfully complete my DPhil and to embark on a productive and high impact research career.