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Alumni

The diversity of the LIDo programme equips graduates to succeed in a range of sectors. We are hugely proud of our alumni who are represented in academia, industry, government, and a range of public and private sector positions.
Hugo Villanueva

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What is your current position?

Innovation and Business Development Director at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst (SBC). We are located at the heart of the largest cell therapy cluster in Europe and Asia. We have GSK right next door, LifeArc is one of our occupiers and several high-profile companies like Autolus, Freeline and Achilles Therapeutics. 

 

Describe a little about your role.

I oversee bringing new start-ups and companies to SBC. I also look after the companies that we have on campus by putting them in contact with the relevant people, getting them funding opportunities and creating relevant events for them. Lastly, I am currently building an accelerator programme for early-stage start-ups at the pre-seed to seed stage.

 

Briefly describe your journey from LIDo graduation to your current position.

After my LIDo graduation, I applied for the BBSRC Flexible Talent Mobility Account (FTMA) programme with a consulting company, Revena, I got to know through my PhD. Through Revena, I did technical due diligence for early-stage start-ups at a well known accelerator in London. During my time there, I applied for a grant via which I received £35,000 to spend talking and pitching my biotech idea over 3 months. The coronavirus happened but I was able to do some remote consulting work for a stealth biotech in Boston until I was head-hunted for my current position. It was pretty neat because I never had a down-time in between job-offers, didn’t have to formally apply anywhere (apart from the grants) and put myself in a secure position during uncertain times.

 

The FTMA is targeted at talented early career researchers (ECRs), postdoctoral researchers, PhD students who have submitted their thesis and those early in their career who are equivalent to BBSRC David Phillips Fellows or equivalent from industry (PGRs) who have the potential to be the next generation of leaders within UK academic and industrial research.

 

What do you love most about your job?

I get to be at the heart of innovation without having to hold a pipette. I get to see cutting-edge science without compromising my mental health and I get paid for that. 

I am surrounded by both scientists and entrepreneurs as well as very top-level people in the Pharma ecosystem. The environment is very stimulating and since we are at the heart of cell therapy manufacturing in the UK, I can directly say that by staying operational during the pandemic, SBC saved several people’s life. That’s pretty neat to think about.

 

What parts of the LIDo programme had the strongest impact on you and your career ambitions?

PIPS and FTMA. Outside of academia and industry research, 0 people care about your lab, PI, or papers. Both of these schemes helped me (along with the countless extra-curriculars I did) get me where I am. As with everything, the LIDo programme is what you make of it. If you have tunnel-vision and focused solely on your PhD without a way out, you will struggle to get non-academic/research related jobs. LIDo has plenty of events and opportunities to network, so I would recommend anyone to make full-use of their time in the programme.

 

Share your best LIDo memory.

My favourite LIDo memory was the first-year bliss. It gets significantly harder after that. I also actually remember SysMIC quite fondly, believe it or not. 

 

What advice would you offer to current/future LIDo PhD students?

Don’t just do lab-work. Get involved with societies, Innovation Forum, Science Entrepreneur Club, Science Innovation Union, etc. Get as much exposure to the world outside unless you really enjoy low-pay, very long hours and short-term contracts like Post-docs. Get over or find ways to deal with the impostor syndrome because you will always have that, whether in science or business or anywhere else. 

Take leadership activities even if you don’t think you are a leader. You will find it interesting working and managing bright people with PhD but with completely different personalities. It’s an invaluable experience. 

Network, network, network. I can’t stress how important it is. Put yourself forward, you will be uncomfortable at first, but once people start seeing you at events, they will recommend you or hire you without you having to go through 3 stages hyper-competitive interviews. You have 4 years to prepare and think about your life after PhD, don’t let it creep on you.

 

What comes next for you?

That’s confidential but probably big things.

Claire Bromley

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What is your current position?


Science Communications Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK

Alzheimer’s Research UK is the UK’s leading dementia research charity, dedicated to making life-changing breakthroughs in preventions, diagnosis and treatment. We work to raise awareness of the diseases that cause dementia, tackling misconceptions, confronting fatalism and showing the potential of research to give us all hope of changing the future. 

 

Describe a little about your role.

I work in the Sci Comms team, leading on the generation of content for fundraising teams. This involves writing a wide range of copy from newsletters and blogs to detailed breakdowns of project progress. I’m currently working on an exciting project to communicate our research impact so far.

The presentation skills from my PhD have come in useful. I’ve worked with the public engagement team at festivals, have been a spokesperson for the charity at public meetings, and had my first taste of a radio interview this month. Internally, I train new starters from a variety of backgrounds to help them talk confidently about dementia research, as well as running regular sessions about the different research we fund.  

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Briefly describe your journey from LIDo graduation to your current position.

Following a short research position in my PhD lab to tie up loose ends, I spent a year in Japan working at the RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research as a post-doc.

The Wang lab looks at the role of biomechanical forces in early Drosophila development. I worked to introduce optogenetics into the lab to explore the processes controlling how the fruit fly embryo is shaped.

During my post-doc I co-authored a paper. I loved getting my hands dirty doing experiments and data analysis, but my favourite part was working out the best way to communicate the research clearly and concisely.

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I needed to return to the UK earlier than planned to be close to family. I decided to switch roles as I’d always loved the communications work I’d done as a scientist, and wanted to try it as a full-time job.

What do you love most about your job?


I can still get excited about science! I get to spend time learning about the incredible research our scientists are doing, and figuring out the best ways to talk and write about it for different audiences.

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What parts of the LIDo programme had the strongest impact on you and your career ambitions?


The Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS) placement had a big impact. I went to the Science Museum and trained in public engagement and science communication.

My favourite moment was seeing the content I’d developed about a ‘SkinSuit’ worn by astronauts on the International Space Station on display. I still have the part of the exhibit at home!

 

Share your best LIDo memory.

The retreat was a yearly highlight and a fantastic opportunity to get to know other students on the programme and their research projects. There was always lots of time for socialising!

 

What advice would you offer to current/future LIDo PhD students?

Take opportunities when you can – whether it’s taking part in (or organising!) conferences, working with collaborators, learning on training and development courses, or finding an interesting PIPS opportunity – do what excites you and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

I spent a few months working in a collaborator’s lab in Austria, flew to America for a conference after winning a poster prize, and attended a Developmental Neuroscience course in Japan. The course played a huge role in my decision to do my post-doc out there. Collaborations forged online and virtual conferences can still lead to opportunities.

Good communication is key - whether you plan to stay in academia or move onto another career path. Being able to communicate your work to a wide range of audiences can be important in many contexts, from securing funding for a brilliant idea to expanding a network of collaborators to securing your next position.

During your PhD, you could take the chance to volunteer for projects like the Brilliant Club, Access Project, or Pint of Science. Engaging with the public is a great way of improving your communication skills and taking a break from lab work.  

Honest feedback is invaluable – take it whenever you can!

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What comes next for you?

The last six months have seen a huge shift in the way that medical research charities operate. In the immediate future, I’ll be working alongside colleagues to adapt our messaging and find new ways to engage with our supporters, researchers and the wider public.

Jody Phelan

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What is your current position?

I am an assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

 

Describe a little about your role.

Most of my time is spent doing research. I focus on development of methodologies to predict drug resistance in the bacteria M. tuberculosis through analysing the genome sequence. Most of my time is spent analysing data, writing software and coordinating research projects. I also have some other duties at LSHTM including supervision of several PhD students and teaching on various master’s level courses at the university.

 

Briefly describe your journey from LIDo graduation to your current position.

After finishing my PhD, I secured a position as a research fellow at LSHTM. This allowed me to finish some of the ongoing work from my PhD as well as to start developing my own projects. I was awarded funding to hire an undergraduate student for 3 months through the LIDo REP program. This allowed me to develop skills required to run my own project grant, as well as providing the student with experience of working in a research environment. Following this I applied for funding from the Bloomsbury SET programme and managed to secure 30k of funding. This was used to run a project aiming develop a web-platform to automate collection and processing of pathogen sequencing data. Most recently, I was promoted to Assistant Professor at LSHTM.

 

What do you love most about your job?

I guess the thing I most love about the job the diversity of people and cultures of I am routinely exposed to through my research. I have gotten the opportunity to travel to our overseas collaborators in South America, Asia and Africa and to teach and learn. Being able to travel that while doing a job I love makes it all worthwhile. I also really appreciate its flexibility. As my work is mostly computational, I can do it from pretty much anywhere at any time. This means you don’t necessarily have to plan everything around a 9 to 5.

 

What parts of the LIDo programme had the strongest impact on you and your career ambitions?

PIPS was quite important for me. I worked as a data scientist at a large financial institution. It gave me a completely different perspective on how research is run in a non-university environment and has given me new ideas on how I would like to run my own research in the future.

 

Share your best LIDo memory.

I really enjoyed the first LIDo retreat. It was nice seeing familiar faces, discussing our research and socialising till the late hours.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future LIDo PhD students?

If you encounter problems during your PhD or need advice, don’t struggle through it alone. Never underestimate the help you can get from your colleagues around you. Most researchers will more than happy to help out or give advice. If there are opportunities to socialise, make use of them! It is always useful to network.

 

What comes next for you?

I would like to further develop my research interests and try carving out a niche for myself. To do this I’ll need funding, so there will be a lot of applying for fellowships and grants.

Ekaterina Yonova-Doing

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What is your current position?

I am Statistical Genetics Research Scientist in Data-Driven Drug Discovery at Novo Nordisk Research Centre Oxford (NNRCO). NNRCO is innovative target discovery and translational research unit with a focus on identifying novel drug target for cardiometabolic diseases.

 

Describe a little about your role.

My main focus is harnessing the power of genetics and omics in large population-based cohorts to identify novel drug targets for cardiovascular and cardiometabolic diseases. I develop analyses pipelines and methods, provide genetic support for various wet-lab projects and help with data analyses and study design.

 

Briefly describe your journey from LIDo graduation to your current position.

After obtaining my LiDo PhD, I worked for two and a half years as a post-doc in the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge. My project was focused on exploring the role of mitochondrial DNA variants, an understudied part of our genome, in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular and cardiometabolic traits. During my time in Cambridge, I also participated in the Borysiewicz Biomedical Sciences Fellowship that aims to develop strategic leaders ready to pursue a range of global problems related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

 

What do you love most about your job?

The best things about my work are that: 1) I work on many diverse projects simultaneously and can explore different diseases, tissues and models which make my day to day work very interesting; 2) I work within teams of very talented multidisciplinary scientists from both the dry and wet labs. That means I learn new things constantly.

 

What parts of the LIDo programme had the strongest impact on you and your career ambitions?

Above and beyond the excellent academic training, what was really impactful is that I was exposed to the world outside of academia and realised that there is so much more that meets the eyes and that I can do what I love and am good at in many different settings. All this made it easier to move from an academic to an industry post.

 

Share your best LIDo memory.

Some of my happiest memories are from the LIDO PhD retreats. The retreats are a great opportunity to: learn about all the cool science that everyone in the programme does; get some good career advice; bond with your fellow PhD colleagues over fun team-building activities and have great philosophical discussions with them till late at night over drinks.

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What advice would you offer to current/future LIDo PhD students?

Keep an open-minded and make use of all the great opportunities LIDo will give you to enrich your networks and to learn from people across disciplines and institutions both in an out of academia.

 

What comes next for you?

I am very new to working in industry, but I am enjoying it as much as working in academia. For now, I want to grow and develop in this new environment and keep on exploring the opportunities the pharmaceutical industry can offer. 

Lewis Brayshaw

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What is your current position?

I am an Investigator in Functional Genomics at GSK.

 

Describe a little about your role.

I use CRISPR-Cas9 screens to map genes to functions in primary T cells and identify novel targets for drug development programmes. 

 

Briefly describe your journey from LIDo graduation to your current position.

Despite its ups and downs, I love scientific research and after my PhD in cell adhesion biology I was looking for a transition into mammalian synthetic biology. I was set on continuing in academia, but I decided to take a post-doc position focused on chemically-controlled switches in CAR-T cells, which was based in GSK. It turned out to be a fantastic opportunity and allowed me to conduct independent research in the collaborative and resource-rich environment of industry. After one year in the post-doc I transitioned to a permanent role and continued to develop novel technologies to control or enhance the potency of CAR-T cell therapies. Two and half years later, following a re-organisation (a common occurrence in industry) in the Cell and Gene Therapy department, I decided to join the Functional Genomics department in order to expand my skills in engineering and analysing T cells.

 

What do you love most about your job?

The ability to conduct scientific research in an enjoyable and sustainable manner. This is largely due to the fact that you are always rewarded for quality science, regardless of the result. I also love that I have the space to pursue my own ideas and that I’m surrounded by scientists who are passionate about novel research and publishing papers. I have also really enjoyed working with academia from within industry and I’m currently supervising a University of Oxford PhD student who is expanding upon one of the technologies that we developed in-house.   

 

What parts of the LIDo programme had the strongest impact on you and your career ambitions?

The PIPS programme was such a fun and unique opportunity. I was lucky to secure a placement at a biotech (SGI) in California, which gave me my first experience of research in industry and some excellent contacts for the future. 

 

Share your best LIDo memory.

The late night ‘networking’ at the LIDo retreats will go down as legend.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future LIDo PhD students?

The most important skills for making it through a PhD are being organised and resilient. With these skills you will have the best chance of enjoying what should be one of the most flexible and creative periods in your life. Make sure to get involved with other activities (e.g. societies, iGEM) and invest time in your social network. These will provide you with some much-needed perspective and beer when everything is seemingly going wrong in the lab.

 

What comes next for you?

Not sure yet but probably lunch.

Marie-Christine Bartens

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What is your current position?

Technical Officer in the Global TB Programme at the World Health Organization (WHO). I am based at WHO Headquarters in Switzerland.

 

Describe a little about your role.

I work in the Tuberculosis (TB) Monitoring and Evaluation unit on strengthening TB surveillance and routine use and analysis of data. My work involves carrying out epidemiological reviews and national surveys in countries to inform policy and programmatic action. Most of my time is spent providing technical assistance by reviewing protocols, survey design or performing data analysis. Due to the current situation I am not able to travel, however that is generally also a major objective of my workplan.

 

Briefly describe your journey from LIDo graduation to your current position.

During the last year of my PhD I applied for this position at WHO which was advertised as part of the Junior Professional Officer Programme. My research was in TB and I had also undertaken an internship at the WHO Country Office in the Philippines as my PIPS during the third year of the PhD. I then joined the organization immediately after completing the PhD.

 

What do you love most about your job?

I am very passionate about my area of work and I see that as part of the organization you can make a real impact and contribute to improving health worldwide. I very much love travelling and working with countries. Overall my work environment is quite fascinating and multicultural.

 

What parts of the LIDo programme had the strongest impact on you and your career ambitions?

Clearly the possibility to undertake a PIPS. I found this a unique opportunity to explore career options outside of academic research. As mentioned above, I did mine at the WHO Country Office in the Philippines. This experience allowed me to gain insights into public health work in a country and the organization itself. Besides solidifying my interest and passion for working in this field, I was able to build a network that later supported my application for the current position I have.

 

Share your best LIDo memory.

My best LIDo memory was the first-year retreat. It was a great opportunity to reflect on the first year and to get to know and bond more with fellow LIDo colleagues. We had some interesting exchanges about research projects, but certainly also a great time socialising.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future LIDo PhD students?

Developing a high stress and frustration tolerance early on is very helpful. And if things go wrong, there is no point in obsessing over it, but to learn from it and move on. I believe the key to success is good organisation and to keep up the communication with the supervisor to discuss expectations, so everyone is on the same page.

Furthermore, it can appear like the PhD project becomes the centre of one’s life for the time being, but one should ensure keeping an open mind and pursuing other interests as well. From a professional perspective, it is important to build a wider network (e.g. through societies) and to make use of opportunities like the PIPS. From a personal perspective, I would recommend to always set some time aside for other non-professional activities such as sports, hobbies and spending time with family and friends. It is important to find a routine that allows for a good work-life balance that prevents one from burning out.

 

What comes next for you?

I am very keen to expand my skillset further and widen my network. Once travel resumes, I will hopefully be able to join some country missions again or undertake a short assignment at a country office.