Interview with PhD student – Sara Lucchini

1 min read
 by Nicola Gale

Sara started her four-year PhD in September 2020 in Professor Silvia Marino’s lab at the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University of London.

We caught up with Sara as she approaches her final year in the PhD programme to find out how she is getting on.

What project are you working on?

My PhD project is focused on the study of glioblastoma (GBM) recurrence. GBM is a primary brain tumour that always recurs after treatment. By working with cells coming directly from patients, we are trying to better understand what molecular processes regulate the emergence of the recurrent tumour and therefore trying to find new druggable targets to be used for a better therapeutic approach.

What is the most rewarding part of your PhD?

The most rewarding part of my job is surely when the results of my experiments confirm my initial hypothesis. Knowing that my research, in its own small way, could get to help people affected by a terrible disease, such as GBM, is the best motivation for working hard and passionately.

What have you found difficult as a PhD student?

As a third-year PhD student, the hardest part related to my work is dealing with months-long experiments without knowing if they will be successful or not. Biology is, to a certain extent, unpredictable, so learning how to deal with unplanned situations in the lab is essential in order to maintain focus and not get frustrated. Another hard part of my work is the awareness that finding a permanent research position after my PhD will not be easy.

What has been the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?

One of the biggest obstacles has been leaving my home country, Italy, and moving to the UK to pursue my PhD. Not only did this mean leaving my family and friends, but also getting used to living in a foreign country, making new friends, and speaking another language all day long. Moreover, I moved here in 2020, so social interactions were barely possible due to COVID-19. However, thanks to my great colleagues my settling went smoothly and having the chance of being able to work on what I am passionate about made it all worth it.

How will your research go on to benefit patients?

Nowadays, all GBM patients relapse after conventional therapy. Unfortunately, recurrent tumours are still challenging for different reasons, such as the absence of appropriate models to use for drug testing and the extreme molecular heterogeneity that characterises GBM. The final aim of my project is to understand how GBM recurrent tumours are regulated at the molecular level and consequently try to improve treatment options to improve the life of patients affected by this disease.

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