UCL News


Spotlight on Suzana Hadjur

3 June 2015

This week the spotlight is on Suzana Hadjur, Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, UCL Cancer Institute.

Suzana Hadjur

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am the Head of the Genome Organisation and Function Group at the UCL Cancer Institute.

I started this role five years ago, when I joined UCL, having been awarded an MRC Career Development Fellowship. Over the years, my role has changed a lot. Initially, I worked full-time in the laboratory to get the experiments up and running, much as I did when I was a post-doc (at Imperial College), except that I was also responsible for budgets and other scientists! It was a massive undertaking.

Now, I spend most of my time either managing projects or communicating and promoting the research done by my excellent team. This takes the form of writing opinions and primary research articles, travelling to conferences and invited lectures and preparing grant applications for further funding.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

See answer above.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I'm proud of many: having a family and a career simultaneously; publishing the first paper from my own team; seeing the maturation in my students; and being awarded two competitive fellowships.

Tell us about a project you are working on now that is top of your to-do list?

Do you ever wonder how all the cells of your body can have the exact same set of genetic instructions, yet they can perform such diverse jobs (i.e. brain vs liver cells)? The answer lies in the manner in which your genome is deployed - although all the genetic information is present in every cell, only some of it is used in each cell type. This is epigenetics - the information beyond the genetic code that helps to define cellular identity.

My lab tries to understand how epigenetic processes contribute to cell identity. We are particularly fascinated by the structure and organisation of chromosomes within nuclear space and how complex spatial packaging of the genome influences fundamental cellular processes such as cell division, genome integrity and gene regulation. Discoveries from our research will provide a platform upon which to further understand developmental biology and diseases that result from the loss of cell identity, such as cancer.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

Album: Back to Black by Amy Winehouse.

Film: Spellbound.

Novel: Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Chris Hadfield (astronaut), David Attenborough (TV presenter), Tina Turner (musician), Jack White (musician), Ruth Rogers (chef) and Donna Tartt (author).

What advice would you give your younger self?

"Imagination is more important than knowledge" - Albert Einstein.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

English is not my first language.

What is your favourite place?

In London, Hampstead Heath. Elsewhere, Whistler Mountain (Canada), Vrgada Island (Croatia) and Hong Kong.