Clinical Fellow, Career Development Fellow
Department of Oncology
Tell us a bit about your role
I am a doctor in the early phase trials unit and also work in the lab, studying immune pathways in cancer. I am fascinated by the interplay between DNA repair and the immune system – I have no doubt that understanding this interaction will lead to new and improved anti-cancer treatments.
I trained first as a medical doctor, based mostly in Belfast, and chose to specialise in oncology because I really enjoyed the balance of scientific research and clinical practice, and the team-based approach. I completed my DPhil in the Kennedy lab in Belfast where my interest in research was further amplified, and I chose to remain a clinician scientist, with dedicated time for lab-based research. I joined Oxford in 2019, working in the early phase trials unit and also starting a new lab.
I am a translational scientist – this carries lots of meanings to me. Firstly, I translate what I observe in the clinic and what I hear from patients to focus the work I do in the lab. I then aim to bring my work in the lab back into the clinic and improve the lives of people with cancer. Because I speak the language of medicine and the language of science, I can be a resource for scientists who want to know where their work fits in to the clinical setting, and for clinicians who want to know how they use scientific research to answer a clinical question. Being part of both worlds is continually inspiring and drives me to improve.
What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?
I love the sense of discovery in the lab. I don’t know that there are many jobs where you get to ask questions no-one has before, or get the opportunity to piece a puzzle together in the way we can in science. Better still, I love that this work all builds and pushes towards better care for people with cancer – seeing patients in the clinic, and spending time with them, is always motivating and a strong driving factor for my research.
Can you tell us about something you've done, contributed to that you're most proud of?
I discovered a particular way in which the immune system and DNA damage interact during my DPhil studies. This work inspired others to try new combination treatments using immune checkpoint therapies, and these combinations are now in clinical trials. What I’m currently most proud of are new collaborations and the teamwork in the lab – we work with amazing people across the world. It’s inspiring and invigorating to interact and work together to push scientific discoveries forward.
What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?
I would like to see greater recognition for teamwork – currently a lot of science and research is judged individually, and getting credit as an individual is therefore important. However – those who travel together travel furthest – and seeing meaningful recognition and acknowledgement of the crucial role of teamwork in science would, I believe, result in deeper insights and greater progress in anti-cancer treatments.