Tell us a little bit about you:
I am a new PhD student at the University of Strathclyde, having completed a Master of Research with the Uni and then returning. I am a part timer and work within an accounting firm for the other half of my week. My life has been described as better than Emmerdale due to the dramatic nature of it. I am a gym enthusiast, I love baking, I love shoes and I love trees. I'm a Scottish Pakistani fourth generation and love the mix of cultures. I spend most of my free time working, working out, or eating cake.
What is your area of research and what project(s) are you working on now?
My area of research is brain cancer research. Specifically, Glioblastoma which is the most aggressive form of brain cancer and most difficult to overcome with low survival rates. My research investigates different novel combination approaches that could target the tumours using repurposed drugs. I also look at drug delivery models that could enhance the effects of the treatment while minimizing drug load and side effects. My current project is researching the synergistic effects of a new combination model with a repurposed drug that is looking promising in targeting Glioblastoma. The combination uses the repurposed drug, the current chemotherapy, and radiation to cause cancer cell death.
When was your interest in STEM/your field first sparked and why?
My interest in science was always there from a young age, I loved biology as a subject. It was when my brother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis that I really thought of science as a long-term career. I carried it onto my undergrad where I studied biomedical science. It was during my honours project where I researched chronic myeloid leukaemia that I took a real interest in oncology. Luckily during my masters, I met my wonderful supervisor who is still my supervisor and have been researching Glioblastoma ever since. I found the complexity behind cancer and tumour development fascinating, it is like a very complex puzzle with many different players. I am excited to take part in cancer research, tackling one piece of the puzzle at a time. Being a young British Pakistani woman, I fully advocate for equal chances in science and promoting women in science. It is something that I’ve truly grown to be passionate about.
Who or what inspired you to stick with STEM when you were younger?
My father has been the most encouraging of my academic career. He initially wanted me to study medicine but was just as supportive of biomedical science and even more so of my PhD as he is a Dr himself in Agricultural landscaping. My family overall have been incredibly supportive of my journey in academia and have always been encouraging.
What challenges do you think STEM disciplines face with regards to issues of diversity and inclusion and what should a supportive, inclusive STEM community look like?
During my short time as a PhD student I believe that there are still some challenges where disciplines can discriminate and be male orientated. Work should be done towards creating inclusive environments for everyone to feel comfortable.
In your career, what are the moments that have made you proudest so far?
The proudest moment so far was achieving my MRes, as I was not always confident in my science abilities. So, creating a thesis, and all the data that went into it, definitely was an achievement for me.
Since STEM career paths are rarely easy to navigate, what challenges have you faced along the way?
I worked for the NHS in the biomedical department for a year and found it near impossible to get any training to advance my skills and development in the career path, this was one of the reasons I came back to study my PhD as I felt the job was limiting and not supportive. I have since struggled to find funding to support my studies, so am studying part time. I find this particularly challenging as a PhD with lab work as it is hard to navigate part time and I spend most of my weekends either at work or in the University.
Where do you find support to sustain you in your current career?
I find support in my supervisor, family, and Uni group, who all understand the challenges faced in a PhD. My boss at my job is also very supportive and flexible which allows me to balance work and studying.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in STEM?
I would advise them to research the job opportunities, grants, support, opportunities they can find, as any additional aid or experiences can really alter the path your STEM career takes.
Fun question: Tell us two truths and a lie about you.
a) I am obsessed with any form of cake whilst having cake intolerances. b) I once made up a song for classmates to help in an exam. c) I was featured in a magazine and had to give an interview.