"II really enjoy the fact that even though it might seem small and very ‘behind-the-scenes’, my work can be used to make a difference in someone’s life"
How did you become interested in translational gastroenterology?
Translational gastroenterology is actually very far removed from what I studied – I completed a 3-year research Master’s degree in Forensic Genetics at the University of the Free State in South Africa. Despite having a degree in a different scientific field, it was my love of molecular biology and research – and the desire to do both abroad – that lead me to applying to be a part of Professor Holm Uhlig’s group. Since joining the lab, I’ve learnt so much about immunology and its role in gastro-related disorders; I’m thoroughly enjoying the journey!
What are you currently working on and what importance does your work hold for current patients with gastrointestinal issues?
I am now a research assistant in Professor Holm Uhlig’s lab, working specifically on the CARTOGRAPHY project. The aim of this project is to create a cellular, molecular, and genetic roadmap for immune-mediated inflammatory disorders across different organ systems – the gut, skin, and joint. The project has also recently expanded to include Infectious Disease, Vaccines, Oncology and Neuroscience. As the research assistant, my job is to coordinate and assist with the research taking place across these seven workstreams. However, I am primarily based in the gastroenterology department, so I am also quite involved with the sample collection and processing for this workstream, with a focus on ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, and coeliac disease. These disorders affect so many individuals, and despite the success of many medicines, there is a lack of understanding of disease biology and the pathways targeted by them. I hope is that this research, and my role in it, can help answer some of these questions and gain a better understanding of how and why these diseases affect people the way that they do and thereby contribute to more targeted therapies.
What do you enjoy most about scientific research?
I really enjoy the fact that even though it might seem small and very ‘behind-the-scenes’, my work can be used to make a difference in someone’s life. Having the opportunity to investigate these diseases allows us the potential to understand a certain disease pathway and to discover a new pharmacologically relevant cellular target. This in turn allows pharmaceutical companies the potential to develop therapies that could be effective and significantly improve the patients’ well-being and quality of life. All of this within the lab, without having actually met the patients – I think that’s pretty cool.
What’s the best part of being an Oxford University TGU member?
My favourite part of being a TGU member is definitely being surrounded by so many incredible scientists and clinicians. Everyone is doing their own amazing research, and each person has their area of expertise, but there is a big sense of collaboration within the TGU. Regardless of the task at hand, there will always be someone who is there and willing to lend a helping hand