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ICH Student Profiles


Child Health Research PhD student profiles

Emma Butcher

“My name is Emma Butcher.  I attended Edinburgh University where I studied for my undergraduate degree, Bsc in Medical Sciences, before going on to study for an MSc in Social Epidemiology at UCL.  I started my PhD at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (Population, Policy and Practice programme) in September 2016.  My PhD research is based on the use of secondary data analysis to investigate determinants of child health and outcomes, specifically permanent childhood hearing impairment.  Studying at ICH has already given me many opportunities to improve my research and transferable skills; my supervisors are so knowledgeable themselves and they also help link me to the network of other researchers at ICH and elsewhere that I can collaborate with or ask for advice in specific areas.  My studies at ICH will very much act as the next step in my future career by allowing me to build on the skills I already have, as well as learning some new ones, throughout my PhD and take on new challenges, so that I’m prepared for whatever my next step may be!”

Heng Fan

“My name is Heng Fan. I graduated with a master’s degree in Biostatistics from Fudan University, China, where I gained research experience in data analysis for clinical trials and cancer registries. I joined ICH as a PhD student in 2016, funded by a CIO-Child Health Research PhD studentship and China Scholarship Council. My research here is based on the data analysis of a national primary care database (CPRD) to study the association between antibiotics exposure during pregnancy and the risks of childhood adverse outcomes like cerebral palsy. My project is supervised by Dr Leah Li, Dr Linda Wijlaars and Prof Ruth Gilbert. With the help from my knowledgeable supervisors and colleagues, I found the research environment here supportive and motivating. My supervisors never hesitate to help link me to other researchers around the world that I can collaborate with or ask for advice in specific areas. Research students in our programme also have regular journal clubs and other social activities, which provide us with chances to communicate and to be inspired. ICH provides a great platform to build on and expand the professional skills, capabilities and knowledge I need for my future career.”

Lizzy Rivers

Lizzy Rivers is a clinical research training fellow supported by the Wellcome Trust. She graduated with a degree in Medicine from Cardiff University in 2009 and subsequently commenced specialist paediatric training in London. Lizzy developed a subspecialty interest in paediatric immunology, with one area of particular fascination being the interplay between autophagy and inflammasome activity. She joined ICH in September 2016 to explore this research area through a PhD under the supervision of Professor Adrian Thrasher (Molecular and Cellular Immunology Unit). The project uses a Wiskott Aldrich syndrome model to investigate the role of the cell actin cytoskeleton in these pathways, with a view to identifying non-steroid based therapies to modulate inflammatory symptoms. The excellent research training offered at ICH is providing Lizzy with the foundation in research methodology required to underpin a future research career. Being part of the dynamic and truly translational clinical-academic environment, with interdisciplinary collaboration between globally recognised researchers, has inspired Lizzy to explore post-doctoral training opportunities that will augment her clinical practice to enhance patient care.


iBSc Paediatrics & Child Health student profiles

This BSc is one of the most unique and diverse offered by UCL and does not disappoint! Highlights include the opportunity to experience life on the wards and clinics of Great Ormond Street Hospital, follow the journey of a family with a newborn baby and simulate acute medical scenarios. This BSc is challenging but equally rewarding and allows for great personal and clinical development.

James Williams, iBSc 2014-15


MSc in Cell & Gene Therapy student profiles

Lorna Fitspatrick

Lorna Fitzpatrick (2011-12)

"Previously obtaining an undergraduate degree in genetics and cell biology, I was looking to find an MSc directed at developing skills in cutting edge cell therapeutics. The MSc offered at UCL provided a unique opportunity to study in an environment that is at the forefront of developing gene therapy for a broad spectrum of diseases. The course focused on clinical and molecular aspects of cell therapies and also provided modules that are fundamental to developing a career in science, such as statistics and a mandatory laboratory project. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at UCL. The academic and administrative staff were friendly, obliging and dedicated to supporting the students. The class size was small, ensuring that all students were fully engaged and discussion with the lecturers was encouraged. Excellent external speakers were brought in from a broad spectrum of scientific backgrounds and we were given some insight into different career fields. The practical research module was highly beneficial for building on basic lab skills and techniques as well understanding the process involved in executing an independent project. Based on the experiences gained during the MSc course, I decided to stay within this area and have begun a PhD in stem cell biology upon completion of the degree. Undoubtedly, without the qualification from a research centre of excellence and the exposure to academics within this field, I would not be in the position I am in now. An MSc is a great way to meet and work closely with professionals and UCL has excellent resources to provide an enjoyable and worthwhile experience." 

Shashank Shrishrimal

Shashank Shrishrimal (2011-12)

"After my BSc in Biotechnology from India, I was looking for international exposure and a chance to work with leaders in the field of stem cell biology and gene therapy. The MSc course in Cell and Gene therapy at UCL was a perfect match for my academic interests and provided me with this opportunity. UCL, being one of the best universities in the world, lived up to my expectations and provided an environment for maximum learning within one year. The program initially, provides enough time for international students to adapt to the new environment and meet their course mates. Help is always available at the university and institute if it is required. At the Institute of Child Health (ICH), Professor Christine Kinnon and Dr Mona Bajaj-Elliot helped me understand the new system of education, which is completely different from my home country, India. The modules of the course are designed to give you a good base in the field of biomedical research and provide you with key skills that are essential to any researcher, before entering the laboratory. It gives you an update on the latest progress being made in various genetic and infectious diseases, by researchers working on a given disease. Every presentation is aimed at exposing the student to different areas of research as well as building a complete understanding of a subject (Like the module on Research methodologies and Statistics). The module on applied genomics is one of the most challenging modules of the program and the most satisfying at the end of the course. The presentations given during the HIV module, stem cell and tissue repair module, and molecular aspects of cell and gene therapy module kept me excited throughout the course, about the future possibilities of developing treatments for diseases.  The course also helped me understand the challenges in the field of gene therapy, and the rigorous safety and regulatory requirements for its application. The laboratory experience at the Molecular Immunology Unit (MIU) - ICH, till date has been unmatched. Dr Paolo De Coppi, gave me an opportunity to work on his project on induced pluripotent stem cells, providing me complete support for my progress. Within a short span of 16 weeks, I successfully completed two research projects, only due to availability of all facilities and excellent mentorship by Dr Sayandip Mukherjee. From having absolutely zero research experience to being confident enough to complete any given research project, would not have been possible without this degree. I would like to thank, Professor Christine Kinnon and Dr. Steven Howe for this course, and would highly recommend it to future students who are interested in biomedical research and are looking to make a successful career in research. Being the first one from India to finish a specialized course in gene therapy, it has helped me get noticed by recruiters and secure a PhD position at University of Nebraska Medical Centre (UNMC), Omaha."

Srinath Rajaraman

Srinath Rajaraman (2012-13) 

"My fascination towards advanced cell therapies and personalized medicine prompted me to pursue my Masters degree at UCL. A chance to study and work alongside the pioneers in the field of cell and gene therapy was too alluring and in the end I was well rewarded for my prejudice.  The Masters course was programmed to introduce the students into the ever burgeoning fields of advanced cell therapeutics at a molecular and clinical level along with modules designed to shape up one's competency level for a career in research. The quality of Professors and other lecturers from various prestigious institutions created an intellectually stimulating environment in classes followed by interactive sessions. The varying modes of assessments for different modules ensures an overall development of the students character towards science. The final mandatory lab project provides an opportunity to work alongside an excitingly collaborative scientific group with the flexibility and prospect of choosing a project in one's particular field of interest. Continuous guidance and support from the faculties and  administrative staff makes one feel at ease and regular meetings are conducted to ensure a comfortable academic year for students.  I personally felt inspired and motivated at the chance to work along-side the big names in the field of cell and gene therapy which further improves one's visibility and future prospects. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at UCL and with the knowledge and experience gained thereby going a long way towards securing my Ph.D in the field of gene therapy. I would thoroughly recommend this Masters program for those students who wish to be involved in the exciting field of translational science and UCL provides the perfect launch pad for such budding scientists.”

Physiotherapy

Read more Physiotherapy student profiles

MRes in Biomedicine

Bettina Hartleb (testimonial MRes Biomedicine)

Bettina Hartleb (2014 - 2015)

Research Assistant, Department of Haematology, UCL Cancer Institute
My decision to pursue a Master of Research in Biomedicine at the UCL Institute of Child Health in the year 2014/15 was one of the best I have ever made. I was drawn to this programme because of its extensive research element comprising two projects which involve a total of nine months of hands-on research experience. Although the demand for excellence and proficiency – including in the exhaustive statistical analysis required of me for my research project data – was initially challenging, the expert direction by my project supervisors and the excellent guidance I received from the programme director and course tutor allowed me to complete the programme with a great sense of achievement. Looking back, I would say that doing the ‘introduction to critical analysis’ and the statistics modules, as well as having to make presentations on various topics, served me best to become the confident scientist I am today. I am currently employed at the UCL Cancer Institute as a member of the research staff, where I continue to grow in my profession and strive to make a significant contribution. This MRes programme is one I would recommend to anyone wishing to become a better scientist than they are today.

Cristina Tommasi (MRes testimonial)

Cristina Tommasi (2013 - 2014)

Current PhD student at UCL Institute of Child Health
I undertook the MRes in Biomedicine at UCL Institute of Child Health in the academic year 2013- 2014. The choice of this Masters programme was mainly motivated by its research component: 9 months of the course were dedicated to research projects! I undertook the mini project in Dr Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s lab working on viral infections of skin and the maxi project in Dr Mona Bajaj-Elliott’s lab investigating the microbe-mediated regulation of intestinal and epidermal barrier function. I also found the taught modules very interesting: “Foundations of Biomedical Sciences” which gave us an overview of the variety of research ongoing in different groups around ICH and “Research Methodology and Statistics”. I particularly enjoyed the module “Understanding Research and Critical Appraisal: Biomedicine” as I found it very helpful in improving my writing and presentation skills. These skills proved to be extremely valuable in the PhD that I started at ICH immediately after the MRes.

Diana Yanez Marcayata

Diana Yanez Marcayata (2012 - 2013)

Current PhD student at UCL Institute of Child Health
After I finished my MBBS, I successfully applied for a scholarship in my country Ecuador, to start the MRes Biomedicine degree in the academic year 2012 - 2013. This MRes was divided into two terms. During the first term I received outstanding lectures related to some of mechanisms that cause human diseases, and the strategies for their prevention and treatment. In my second term, we had the opportunity to choose two research projects. My mini project was “The role of Hedgehog signaling in erythropoiesis”, and my maxi project was “The role of the transcription factor FoxA2 in T cell development”. At this stage, I was introduced as part of a research team. Professor Tessa Crompton closely supervised these two projects. By having taught module lectures in the first term, I acquired basic knowledge. When I moved into the second term, I developed experimental knowledge and different lab skills. This combination made this programme particularly exciting. By the end of this MRes, I gained in-depth lab skills, which enabled me to continue with a PhD in the same lab group. The programme was well organized. Supervisors and tutors are friendly and they value our feedback very much. These particularities created an exceptional environment for me as international student. The programme was well organized. Supervisors and tutors are friendly and they value our feedback very much. These particularities created an exceptional environment for me as international student.

Lisa Gerner (2011 - 2012)

PhD student at University of Oslo 

The MRes in Biomedicine at the UCL Institute of Child Health combines cutting-edge research and a high-class education with a very social environment, right in the centre of London. The course provided excellent lectures delivered by top researchers from ICH and small class sizes made it very easy for all students to be fully engaged. The main elements of the MRes were two research projects which could be chosen from a wide range of topics throughout ICH.  I have carried out one of these projects with Ryan O’Shaughnessy at the Immunobiology Unit. We studied the interaction of the two proteins Connexin 43 and Zonula Occludins-1 during epidermal barrier acquisition using immunohistochemistry with subsequent laser scanning confocal microscopy. The supervision was excellent, the laboratories well equipped and the infrastructure brilliant with the opportunity to work within core facilities in the same building. I should also mention that the project led to two publications! All staff, both academic and administrative, were friendly, very helpful and determined to provide students with the best support they could give whether it was guidance in the lab or help with organisational issues. My excellent experience during the MRes gave me the confidence to proceed in research and I began a PhD directly afterwards for which the skills I’ve learnt at UCL are still highly beneficial.

Gehad Youssef (testimonial MRes Biomedicine)

Dr Gehad Youssef (2008 - 2009)

Current Research Associate, Department of Cancer Biology, UCL Cancer Institute
Former PhD student at UCL Institute of Child Health
I undertook the MRes Biomedicine degree in the academic year 2008 - 2009. I found the course very engaging and exciting. What appealed to me most was the 9 months laboratory component of the course. I completed the mini project (Title: Mucosal immunity to Neisseria meningitdis) under the supervision of Dr Mona Bajaj-Elliott. My maxi project (p53, SHP-1, TrkA, and phosphorylated TrkA (Y674/Y675), expression in primary ductal and lobular breast carcinoma) was conducted under the supervision of Dr Ximena Montano. We also undertook modules in Research Ethics and Professional Development. Moreover, Professional Development was assessed by a portfolio that demonstrated our development throughout the MRes. The MRes has helped me to prepare to undertake a PhD by providing the opportunity to think as an independent researcher and enhancing my confidence to work in the laboratory. Importantly, the maxi-project has allowed me to gain authorship in two research publications. I would absolutely recommend the MRes Biomedicine course to any student wishing to embark on a research career. We also undertook modules in Research Ethics and Professional Development. Moreover, Professional Development was assessed by a portfolio that demonstrated our development throughout the MRes. The MRes has helped me to prepare to undertake a PhD by providing the opportunity to think as an independent researcher and enhancing my confidence to work in the laboratory. Importantly, the maxi-project has allowed me to gain authorship in two research publications. I would absolutely recommend the MRes Biomedicine course to any student wishing to embark on a research career.