This is my very first blog, but I’m sure won’t be the last, so I hope you enjoy reading!

I graduated in Biomedical Science here at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2023, where I first did a foundation year and I remember at this point I thought this meant I won’t get offered any opportunities to climb up the academic ladder. So, if any one of you had to do a foundation year or is currently doing one, fear not! I now think it was such a beneficial year for me, acting as a stepping stool into higher education.    

My research journey did not begin until the second year of my degree, with Dr Sarah Jones advertising a summer studentship being offered by her and Dr Amanda Unsworth. I was lucky enough to be selected for this and funded by the Platelet Society. It was around 8 weeks long and it was on “Investigating platelet function on in microglial activation and Alzheimer’s disease.” I had to write a short report and got to present at the Platelet Society conference. This was a real eye-opening experience as I got to work with the thrombosis research group here at Manchester Metropolitan University. I saw all the familiar faces I saw in the role of my lecturers, busy in their own research, the research laboratories and facilities: the tissue culture lab, microtome, and microscopes like the thunder and confocal. I wanted to be able to use them all!   

I then got to continue my supervisory relationship with Dr Sarah Jones for my final year project, where I was able to investigate the topic in further detail.   

In March of my final year, Dr Amanda Unsworth posted a fully-funded PhD opportunity in collaboration with the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust on her LinkedIn profile, with the tagline “Looking for a PhD with a clinical/patient focus?” I clicked on the link, and it took me to 

The aim of this study was to characterise the changes observed in thrombosis and haemostasis as CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) progresses to identify novel markers of CKD progression and better understand the processes that contribute to increased thrombotic events (CVD). 

I requested a meeting with Dr Sarah Jones, to discuss the project further, where I saw a clear link between my final year project as it also investigated haemostasis and thrombosis. I had never even thought you could do a PhD without a master’s (either taught or master’s by research) and never thought I wanted to go into research, but after seeing this ad I knew I wanted it, as I could see a direct impact it could have on patients.  

After the meeting, I applied with a thesis proposal and got an interview!  

I contacted every member of the thrombosis group I had known since my studentship, and asked for any advice I could get. Their main message was to go in confidently and act as if you had already got the PhD; go in to show them how you plan on doing it, not how you plan on getting it!   

I had to prepare a 10-minute presentation on a previous research project that I was involved in, highlighting my research skills. The presentation was followed by 30 minutes of questions from the panel, consisting of Dr Sarah Jones, Dr Amanda Unsworth, Dr Natasha Hadgraft and Dr Jim Pritchett.   

It was actually a great experience, but I left with the classic “no idea how it went!” feeling. That same day I got a call to say I got the PhD! And that I would get a more official offer in a few months’ time.    

My PhD started in October 2023 and now feel I have already made huge progress in my research developments!  

In these first few months I have focused on investigating the effects of indoxyl sulphate on thrombosis and haemostasis, as both are significantly altered in CKD patients and indoxyl sulphate is a uremic toxin which is elevated in CKD. I have performed experiments looking at the direct effects of increasing indoxyl sulphate concentrations on platelet function and coagulation. This is through platelet adhesion and spreading assays, platelet aggregation, thrombus formation (a novel technique, that is my current favourite!), and coagulation assays to assess prothrombin time and activated partial thromboplastin time. I have submitted my first poster abstract for the Platelet Society Conference, which will be my first external conference (blog incoming after April!). I am also working on a detailed literature review. This will help to improve my knowledge of the field and will hopefully become my first publication, if all goes to plan, it will also become a part of my first annual review (I know, already!?)

I will work with the Northern Care Alliance and go on to analyse the Salford Kidney Study patient dataset and use stored plasma, and further down the line I will be obtaining fresh blood from patients of interest to do platelet function assays. I am open to explore various future career aspirations, as I feel I have lots of time to do this, and am currently looking into gaining teaching experience, to see how I find it.     

And that has been my academic journey up to now!   

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