PhD student at Queen's University Belfast

Nov ,07 2016

I work at Queen's University Belfast under the supervision of Prof. José Antonio Bengoechea. Our laboratory is located in the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine. The focus of my study involves the attenuation of the IFN-signalling pathway induced upon Klebsiella infection.

My 3-year programme affords me the opportunity to attend many seminars and workshops for which I gain credits as a PhD student. At the end of each year I undergo a differentiation examination, which reviews my research plan and my general ability to complete my PhD. I am examined by a committee which is made up of three professors from my area of expertise. They judge the overall development of my PhD and my performance. This oral exam is made up of a brief presentation about the ongoing work in the laboratory followed by a healthy conversation about future work and goals and objectives of the project. Upon a successful progress review completion, I am successfully ‘differentiated’ to the next year of my PhD and hence be allowed to continue my studies until the next review. At the end of the last year another exam called viva takes place where I need to defend my entire doctoral thesis in front of a committee of three experts in my field.

The opportunities that our laboratory and the centre provides me, in order to develop my personal knowledge and experience are great and various. I attend weekly laboratory meetings where every week a different laboratory member gives a talk about his/her current work in the laboratory and the new findings and problems that have been encountered. This presentation allows ideas to be exchanged between researchers which are important for the work progression of the lab.

Also, once a week, the centre invites a speaker to give a seminar to the researchers and share their expertise. This allows me not only to be in contact with the most recent work in the field but also to share and talk about ideas with important people of the field. In addition, the laboratories of the centre that are specifically interested in immunology come together once a week and two PhD students or post-docs are given the opportunity to present their latest work and discuss new ideas and find solutions to possible problems.

These seminars and meetings allow me to be critical to scientific data and also to learn about other people’s work, giving many times insights over my own work, and allowing me to understand different techniques that will help me to advance faster. Also, by sharing my research, I get feedback from experts in immunology. Over time I can improve not only my capacity to present my own data, but also the capacity to have a critic analysis over it, becoming every day a better researcher.