Frequently Asked Questions

Here’s a couple of questions I’m often asked when I tell people I’m a regenerative medicine PhD student.

What is regenerative medicine?

Regenerative medicine is a really exciting and fast moving field of research that aims to develop therapies to repair or replace tissues and organs damaged by disease or injury. There are a number of approaches being investigated to achieve this including:

  • stem cell transplantation
  • biomaterials
  • tissue engineering (combining cells with biomaterials)
  • gene therapy

As such, regenerative medicine is a very interdisciplinary field bringing together stem cell biologists, engineers, chemists and clinicians to name a few. The field is translational, meaning we aim to take potential therapies from the lab bench into the clinic.

Is that like when scientists grew an ear on the back of a mouse?

*sighs* it wasn’t an ear. It was actually ear shaped cartilage made by taking a biodegradable polymer, adding cow cartilage cells to it and then implanting it under the skin of mice. If you to learn more, the paper can be accessed here.

What is a PhD?

It stands for Doctor of Philosophy, the highest academic degree universities award. It involves undertaking an original research project over a number of years (3-4 in the UK but closer t0 5 years in the US) at the end of which you submit a thesis and defend it (known as a viva in the UK).

Are you still a student?

Yes, I’m a postgraduate research student. However, I don’t think of myself as a typical student. Unlike undergraduates, I don’t spend my time attending lectures, tutorials, studying, sitting exams etc. and I don’t get the long summer holidays. I see my PhD as more of job because I do get paid (tax-free stipend) to work full time on my research project. I’ll take this opportunity to say I’m very grateful to the MRC and¬†EPSRC for funding my studentship.

What do you actually do?

I think one of the best things about being a PhD researcher is that no two weeks are the same and I wouldn’t say I have such a thing as a “typical” day. Last week for example, I did a bit of lab work but was mostly at my desk working on a review article of my research topic which will make up the introduction section to my thesis. This week I’ll be doing more writing, planning future experiments and supervising a 6th form work experience student. Come September, I’ll mostly be in the lab working on a large study and barely at my desk. I made a video recently for a STEM Ambassadors¬†remote activity for primary school pupils showing some of the things I get up to:

What do you do after a PhD?

Probably the two most common career paths are staying in academia with the hopes of becoming a lecturer and principle investigator (PI) in charge of your own lab or moving to industry to work as a scientist for a pharmaceutical company. Other options include medical writing, consulting, teaching, science communication and patent law.

What do you want to do?

Right now, I’m thoroughly enjoying the academic setting. I work with fantastic people and like how much freedom I’ve had to shape the direction of my project, something not typically possible within industry. I definitely want to stay on after graduation to do at least one post-doc (short for post-doctoral research associate). In the longer term, I’m undecided and weighing up my options.

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