June is somehow here already! But it has brought some stunning weather with it as it is gorgeous outside today here in the south of England! And as we all know by now, a new month means it is time for me to introduce to you another incredible scientist and put them under my spotlight!
And June 2017 is the turn of another of my gorgeous PhD course mates, Sofia M. Sofia is our very own ‘Angel of the North’ coming from Lancaster in the North West of England, but has some of that Italian fire running through her veins as her grandparents all moved here from Italy. Sofia and I started our PhD journeys at the same time but once again took completely different paths as her research looks at studying cell signalling in immune cells using proteomics – so basically looking at how are immune cells communicate with each other my looking at ALL the proteins in those cells! This Northern girl is fun and outgoing, loves a good gossip with her friends and is always keen for socialising!
Tell us a bit about your science journey.
Sofia: I studied Biomedical Sciences at Newcastle University for my undergrad before coming down south to do my PhD. My PhD is in cancer immunology but using proteomics to study protein regulation and signalling in lymphocytes. In particular, I am looking at how Fc receptors; the receptors that bind antibodies, signal and communicate!
Why did you choose to study science?
Sofia: My best and favourite subjects at school were always biology, chemistry and maths, so a career in science was always natural for me. My insporation for doing a PhD came in my final year of my undergrad when I was doing my dissertation lab project. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in but I absolutely loved my project. It was definitely the highlight of my undergraduate degree.
What have you been up to in the lab most recently then?
Sofia: I did a big proteomics experiment earlier in the year so I have been doing lots of data analysis and stats recently – lots of clicking at a computer basically! But I am starting to validate my results with techniques like flow cytometry and Western blotting.
Doing a PhD is different for everyone so tell us a bit more about yours – what’s the most valuable, memorable and unexpected moments of your PhD?
Sofia: My most memorable moment so far would definitely be passing my transfer viva. I had spent so long re-analysing data and writing my transfer thesis that I as so relieved and proud to have finally finished that stage! There aren’t really any guidelines or standard ways of analysing proteomics data so my most valuable lesson so far is learning how to make my own decisions and trusting my own judgement as a scientist. My whole PhD journey has not been what I expected but one thing that comes to mind is that proteomics means far more data analysis and stats than I was expecting and my project has changed quite a bit since the start. But I have definitely loved the journey though!
What advice would you give your first year PhD self if you were going to start this journey all over again then?
Sofia: Be assertive. You could probably look at a list of 10,000 proteins forever but you’d be an idiot if you did. And also, there will definitely be days when you want to just give up but persevere and you will get there!
Outside lab life, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Sofia: I’d like to think of myself as a bit of a foodie. I absolutely love cooking, baking, big dinners with friends and going out to eat in new restaurants. I’m attempting to learn Italian too. It’s a bit embarrassing that I can’t speak Italian to my relatives, plus I’d love to travel round Italy for a month when I finish my PhD. Sometime though it can be difficult to balance a social life with lab life, especially when I’m running samples on the mass spec machine and need to be ready at any hour to go and fix a problem, so I try to keep my weekends free to visit friends and family or go for days out and do all this stuff I love! Because it is so important to have a social life and holidays planned and to look forward to after a long day of data analysis.
What’s next for you after your PhD?
Sofia: Well, I have a placement at the end of the year at GlaxoSmithKline in Stevenage so my goal is to learn as much as I can whilst I’m there. After that I’d really like to stay working in immunology if I can. Hopefully my placement at GSK will give me an insight into working in industry as at the moment I think industry will be my next step.
And finally, where in the world should be my next travel destination?
Sofia: This is so difficult! There are so many amazing places to go! But my top 3 places that you must see before you die are:
- Angkor Wat in Cambodia. We went for the sunrise and it was amazing! There are loads of different temples to see, so you can spend all day there! This includes the Tomb Raider temple Ta Prohm which has been taken back by the earth and has trees growing out of it.
- Halong Bay in Vietnam. I took the photo below on a crappy digital camera and it still looks incredible! We stayed on a boat overnight in the bay and it was such a great experience.
- And finally, Mexico! I have just come back from Mexico and definitely recommend going to Chichen Itza. It is breathtaking! There are a couple of ecological waterparks there too where you can swim with stingrays and barracudas.
Huge thank you to Sofia for taking time out of staring at a computer analysing your data to… sit down in front of a computer and answer some questions I had :p and sharing your scientist life with us!
I am loving your idea of travelling Italy. Another Italian roadtrip is what I want to do too but this time I want to do the North of the country and go from Venice, through the lakes and mountains, to Milan and Turin – so if you go I’ll be asking for some tips! You probably have all the inside info of the best places to go in that beautiful country from your relatives but if you need some ideas then you can check out what I got up to on my mini Italian roadtrip! We should also catch up soon! It’s been far too long as I am awful at balancing lab life and a social life! But maybe we can check out some cool new restaurants to broaden my food horizons 🙂
This is the third scientist that I work with that I have showcased along with Lisa and Jordana, and I am going to keep showing off the amazing people that I work with – because if I don’t, who will 😛
Follow Sofia’s life in the lab and around the globe by following her on Instagram and to check out what culinary delights she has been whipping up and sampling lately. If you have any questions for Sofia about life in or outside of the lab please write them in the comments below 🙂