I have been fascinated by science and the natural world for as long as I can remember. Originally, I wanted to be a conservation ecologist and read Natural Sciences at Cambridge with a focus on behavioural ecology and conservation. However, whilst working abroad I became interested in medicine and qualified as a doctor in 2009. It was always my hope to return to research, and working in translational gastroenterology was a great opportunity.
2. What are you currently working on and what importance does your work hold for current patients with gastrointestinal issues?
I am involved in 2 interesting projects studying T cells in the small intestine as part of my DPhil studies, supervised by Paul Klenerman and Elizabeth Soilleux. The first is focused on coeliac disease, a common immune-mediated disorder where intestinal inflammation is caused by an aberrant immune response to gluten, the proteins in wheat, barley, and rye. We are studying the roles of CD8+ and γδ T cells which are increased in number in the lining of the gut in coeliac disease, with the aim of identifying novel pathways involved in the effector response which causes the tissue damage.
The other project, in collaboration with Nicholas Provine and Philip Allan, studies the changes in intestinal T cells following intestinal transplantation. Such transplants are uncommon, but they have transformative effects on the quality of life of patients with intestinal failure, and can be life-saving. However, intestinal transplantation carries significant risks of graft rejection, infection, and graft-versus-host disease. Our work aims to unpick the dynamics of intestinal T cells in such transplants, including the infiltration of recipient-derived T cells and the persistence of the long-lived, donor-derived T cells, with the aim of improving the prevention and treatment of these complications. The work is still at an early stage, but is really exciting!
3. What do you enjoy most about scientific research?
Working in research is very different from clinical medicine, and I have hugely enjoyed the opportunity. I most enjoy the practical and intellectual challenges of designing meaningful experiments, working with brilliant colleagues, and the excitement of learning truly new insights about the world. And the opportunity to drink a lot of coffee.
4. What’s the best part of being an Oxford University TGU member?
The TGU is a fantastic place to work. The best part is definitely my colleagues in the lab – a fantastic group of scientists and clinicians who are so supportive and great fun to work with. It makes for a great collegiate atmosphere, and it is a real joy to work here.