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The Buddy system in action (2021)

Gina Wren is an iCASE student based in the Department of Primary Care Health Sciences (2021 starter), Delaney Dominey-Foy is based in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine (2020 starter).

Gina: Naturally, I felt a mix of excitement and nerves starting my DPhil at Oxford. What was it going to be like? Is it normal to feel like I don’t know what I’m doing? Am I wearing my gown properly?

Gina Wren standing on Christ Church stepsBefore I even arrived at Oxford, I was assigned a buddy, Delaney, in the year above me on the Oxford-MRC DTP. Delaney had been in my position just one year prior and had experienced the exact same worries as me. It was great to have someone to ask my seemingly ‘silly’ questions. In the end, my questions weren’t so silly as I found that everyone starting at Oxford had the exact same worries as me.

Once I arrived in Oxford, I was lucky enough to be invited by Delaney to eat in Christchurch College. In a time when meeting up in person has been difficult, it was great to experience some of the classic ‘Oxford things’ in my first few weeks at the University. We talked about learnings from the first year of Delaney’s DPhil and I was assured that my time at Oxford was likely to be a bit of a rollercoaster but a highly enjoyable experience. I can safely say as my first term in Oxford draws to a close that this is exactly how I would describe my experience so far!

Delaney: Joining the University of Oxford is a daunting experience at the best of times, hence during the COVID-19 pandemic I was very thankful the Oxford MRC-DTP had deployed a buddy system to connect incoming postgraduates with existing students. I felt this was a perfect opportunity for me to share some of my experiences from my first year to an incoming student; and help them avoid the pitfalls I stumbled into during my first Michaelmas term.

The Oxford MRC DTP connected Gina and I via email, and it was great to discuss some questions Gina had of life in Oxford remotely, before Gina had arrived. Once Gina had arrived and settled in Oxford, we were lucky as the COVID-19 restrictions had ever-so-slightly lifted, and we could meet at my College for supper. It was great to learn of Gina’s academic background and the exciting DPhil project she is currently embarking. I reassured Gina that from my experience Oxford life has its highs and lows, but the overall experience is second to none.

More recently and since our meeting in November, Gina and I are currently planning to chat over our Michaelmas 2021 at the beginning of Hilary 2022 – hopefully this time over supper in Somerville College!


Eboni Bucknor (2017 – 2021)Eboni Bucknor smiling

Project: Analysing the function and dysfunction of TLDc proteins in neurological diseases

Supervisors: Associate Professor Peter Oliver and Associate Professor Simon Butt

Lab team

In 2017, I graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a BSc (Hons) in Molecular Genetics. During my studies, I developed a strong interest in molecular mechanisms underpinning human disease, leading me to undertake my DPhil at the MRC Harwell Institute (Mammalian Genetics Unit) in the Molecular Neurobiology group.

My current research project aims to discover underlying neuropathological mechanisms of disease onset when mutations occur in members of the TLDc protein family, a group of proteins suggested to play a role in the neuronal cell response to oxidative stress. Read more about Eboni


Albert Prats Uribe (2018 – 2021) Albert Prats Uribe smiling

Project: Methods for observational risk-benefit studies of medical devices: an analysis of big data and simulation studies.

Supervisors:  Prof. Daniel Prieto Alhambra, Prof. Gary Stephen Collins, Dr.Mohammed Sanni Ali, Dr. Victoria Yuchun Strauss

Lab team 

After completing my Medicine degree, I worked both in the field and in research in Epidemiology and Public Health for 5 years, across a vast range of topics, and completed a specialisation and Master’s in Public Health. These experiences highlighted the importance of methodology and statistics: understanding what questions a certain design can answer and the pros, cons and sources of bias of each statistical technique and design. To further strengthen these methodological skills, I pursued a DPhil with Prof. Prieto-Alhambra.

Studying in Oxford has been a profoundly enriching experience. My DPhil is focused on how to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of procedures and medical devices: I work testing, adapting and developing novel methodologies both with clinical use cases and simulation studies. From this work I have been able to validate new methodologies to mirror clinical trials. Read more about Albert


Anna Kordala (2017-2021)Anna Kordala

Project:  Identifying epigenetic modifiers of survival motor neuron protein using small molecules

Supervisors: Dr Suzan Hammond and Prof Matthew Wood

 Lab team

I began my career with a masters degree in Pharmacy (Medical University of Lodz, Poland). During my masters, I had my first experience of lab work during a placement at the University of Chicago (Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics), where I studied  mistranslation in mammalian cells. Later, I returned to Poland and worked in clinical trials management. In 2016, I moved to Oxford, initially as a Research Assistant in Prof Wood's group, and later as a DPhil student under the supervision of Dr Suzan Hammond. My current research focus is spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), which is the main genetic cause of infant mortality. Read more about Anna 


Sonali Munshaw (2018-2021)Sonali Munshaw smiling

Project: Thymosin β4 – A novel regulator of Low density lipoprotein receptor related protein 1(LRP1) in vascular disease

Supervisor: Dr Nicola Smart and Prof Paul Riley

Lab Team

I completed an MSc in Biochemistry from the University of Madras, India, ranked 2nd at the University. I joined as a research assistant at the Experimental Radiation Therapeutic Group at the University of Oxford to study radiopharmaceutical treatment of Breast Cancer. I subsequently joined Nicola Smarts’ Group at Department Of Physiology Anatomy and Genetics at University Of Oxford where I had an opportunity to explore the fields of Cardiac Regeneration and Vascular Protection. My increasing interest in the molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular disease really motivated me to apply for DPhil under the supervision of Dr Nicola Smart and Prof Paul Riley. I was awarded a prestigious MRC studentship and in 2018, I commenced a 3-Year Non-Clinical MRC PhD Studentship at the University of Oxford. Read more about Sonali



Carla Christianne Schmidt (2018-2021) Carla Christianne Schmidt

Project: Investigations on pre- and postsynaptic plasticity

Supervisor: Prof Nigel Emptage

 Lab team

 I graduated from Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen, Germany, with a BSc and MSc in Molecular Medicine. As a research assistant at the Universtätsklinikum Erlangen, I was able to gain significant lab experience and particularly in the fields of immunology and genetics. However, I was always primarily interested in neuroscience. My research projects during my early studies focused on investigating synaptic plasticity within the brain. As part of my Master’s degree, I came to Oxford for an internship in Prof Emptage’s lab (Department of Pharmacology) where I investigated presynaptic NMDA receptors and their role in synaptic plasticity. In 2018, I joined Prof Emptage’s lab as a DPhil student. I am using electrophysiology as well as in vitro and in vivo imaging to study synaptic transmission and plasticity. Read more about Carla


Matthew Ellis (2017-2020) Matthew Ellis smiling

Project:  Investigating the role of the IGF-1R in prostate cancer

Supervisor: Dr Valentine Macaulay 

Lab team

I graduated from King’s College London (KCL) with a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry, where I became interested in cancer research during my research project. I was subsequently awarded funding to undertake summer research studentships at the University of Cambridge and the National Institute of Medical Research. I received a national scholarship to study an MRes in cancer biology at Imperial College London, working in the Gene Targeting laboratory of Dr Andrew Porter and at the Francis Crick Institute in the Apoptosis and Proliferation Control laboratory with Dr Nic Tapon. Read more about Matthew

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