Current TRACC MB-PhD students

Lorna Stillie

Lorna is a first year MB-PhD student under the supervision of Professor Charlie Gourley (EDI) and Professor Gareth Inman (GLA). Her project focuses on the most common form of epithelial ovarian cancer. She is investigating the role of the MAPK pathway – often defect in this pathway can lead to uncontrolled growth and cancer.

Why did you choose to do a MB-PhD and what attracted you to the TRACC programme?
I heard about the programme through my intercalated degree. I had really enjoyed my degree and was thinking about how I could incorporate research into my clinical career in the future. The TRACC programme was the first opportunity I’d had to extend my intercalated studies. I felt it would be the beginning of a career which combined research and clinical practice in an incredibly diverse, interesting, and relevant context.

How did you select your project?
I chose my project over the course of several weeks. I initially began by seeking out supervisors that worked in areas similar to that which my intercalated project had focused on. I ended up selecting a project in an area which is completely new to me. I felt it would be the most interesting whilst equipping me with the broadest range of skills.

Do tell us a little bit about your PhD project and what has it been like so far?
I’m working in a translational laboratory which focusses on ovarian cancer (OC). I’m working within a subtype of OC, looking at the characteristics of MAPK activation and how it relates to clinical outcomes. I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far. Most of my time has been spent familiarising myself with the existing literature. I’ve been in the lab a few times and have begun learning how to use R. Practical work has been restricted due to COVID and working from home has been the norm. This has had its challenges – I’m definitely looking forward to getting into the lab more often!

What advice would you give to someone applying for the programme?
My main advice to anyone applying is to not be discouraged by a lack of cancer-specific knowledge. I had very limited knowledge (having chosen an intercalated degree focused on Neuroscience and Psychiatry) at the time of my application, which almost stopped me submitting my application. I think an enthusiasm for research is far more important than background knowledge at the application stage.