After interfaculty studies in both biology and chemistry, and an MSc in a lab dealing with pathogenesis at the University of Warsaw, I decided to come to the UK to do my PhD at the LMCB. Two and a half years down the line, I am confident I made the right choice.
In the process, I changed the direction of my research from prokaryotic to eukaryotic and from molecular to cellular biology. Though challenging in itself, the LMCB made the transition almost effortless. During the first year of the programme, our year group attended a course in cellular biology, which was specifically designed for us. Twice a week we had the opportunity to meet and listen to established researchers talking about their field. We read the most relevant papers, discussed the most recent problems, and even someone who was not entirely familiar with the field, like myself, could get a solid grasp of cellular biology and start their PhD with confidence.
Another important benefit of joining the programme was lab rotations. When I started, I was focusing on finding a good immunological group, so I did two of my rotations in virology labs, but then decided to take a chance and try an entirely different topic: the early stages of epithelial cancer. Unexpectedly for me, it was cancerogenesis that really grasped my imagination. I became fascinated with epithelial cells and stayed on in a lab that I would not have even considered before. So, in effect, I am living proof that the LMCB presents students with amazing opportunities to try new fields and expand their interests.
During the actual 3-year PhD, the LMCB remains an exciting work environment. To start with, there are more post-docs and PIs than students (which is quite unusual when compared to other leading European institutes), so there is always someone you can get help or advice from. We also have skilled technical staff on hand to help with all sorts of new equipment and setting up particular experiments. There is an emphasis on excellence at the LMCB: every researcher presents their data once a year in internal seminars – I found that there is nothing quite as satisfying as answering all the questions a demanding audience has to throw at you. Every week we get the chance to listen to external speakers from universities around the world, whom we students regularly take out for lunches. And while there are plenty of possibilities to develop scientific interests within the LMCB, a lot of other UCL labs participate in our programme, so PhDs will often be done outside of the building.
Apart from the scientific inside, what happens outside is also quite important for me – and I could not have wished for a better location. The LMCB is in the heart of London, within the UCL campus, close to lovely Regents Park, bustling Oxford Street, famous West End theatres and the eccentric but fun Camden Town, so there is no way you can get bored. While some may be quietly concentrating on their work in Cambridge, others, to which I most definitely belong, need lots of different ways to take their minds off science after a hard day in the lab or at the weekend.
To sum it all up, if I could go back in time and choose again, I would not change a thing. Although getting your PhD might be the hardest work you have ever done, I find that the whole process becomes an exciting and challenging experience at the LMCB.