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How did you become interested in translational gastroenterology? To be honest, I fell into research in translational gastroenterology. After joining the Kennedy Institute in 2013 the opportunity came up to work in Professor Powrie’s laboratory as she relocated her group to the Kennedy Institute.

sam-bullers.jpgI knew members of her group through my previous studies at University of York and I was fascinated in their field of research, having studied basic cellular immunology myself but in the context of regenerative medicine. Because of this background, I had a broad interest in furthering scientific knowledge at a basic level, but always with patient care in mind. After joining the group my interest grew and grew not only in basic research but how this research had clinical application and could benefit patients. This always seems to be central to what the TGU is trying to achieve.

Q: What are you currently working on and what importance does your work hold for current patients with gastrointestinal issues?

As a Research Assistant in the group, I was involved in many different projects, most led by the Postdocs and DPhil students in the lab. My background is in histology and imaging, so I provide a lot support from that angle. This might seem like I am on the periphery of many projects but for me, this is the most exciting position to be in, as it provides a broad overview of everyone’s work and you can easily see how the lab themes work together toward one common, overarching goal. I also work closely with Professor Powrie’s lab manager to ensure a smooth and efficient running of the lab.

Q: What do you enjoy most about scientific research?

For me, it’s seeing something for the first time that no one else has seen before. This is particularly poignant for imaging. Even if it’s the simply upregulation of a marker in disease versus healthy tissue, it’s still great to capture images of these changes. As a lab we receive a lot of tissue samples from patients, which is very precious material. Working directly with human tissue reminds you of the goals of the TGU and why we do translational research. If you are imaging a biopsy from someone’s colon or a tumour removed from a patient, then it gives a different context to what you are looking at and the impact of your work.

Q: What’s the best part of being an Oxford University TGU member?

It’s the variety of people with a variety of backgrounds who work in the unit, whether in research, clinical, or supporting roles, every member of the team makes a contribution. This provides the researchers in the unit with a vast array of expertise and experience to call on. I also believe the location of the TGU, spread across different research sites but always in close proximity to the hospitals, makes it not only an important unit for the University but for the NHS and Oxford itself.