What has been your career path so far?
After completing my degree in Veterinary Medicine at Porto University, Portugal, I worked as a vet for a few years. That was a very rewarding experience but soon I realised that I would like to do scientific research. In 2002 I moved to the UK to do a PhD at the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, under the supervision of Prof Sir Ian Wilmut, who led the team that cloned Dolly the Sheep back in 1996. There, I worked in the area of animal reproduction and embryo development, particularly focusing on further researching the techniques that were used to clone Dolly the Sheep. In 2005, I relocated to London to take a position of a postdoctoral fellow under the supervision of Prof Peter Rigby, Fellow of the Royal Society, at The Institute of Cancer Research. And in 2010 I joined the Breast Cancer Now Research Centre as a Senior Scientific Officer, working in the Endocrinology team led by Prof Mitch Dowsett and Dr Lesley-Ann Martin.
What is your role?
My role is very varied. It ranges from carrying out experiments in the lab, writing reports and scientific publications, reading the newest research materials, attending meetings, talks and conferences, all the way to project and lab management.
Could you give a brief description of your current project?
Our team is interested in oestrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) breast cancer, particularly in how it may become resistant to anti-hormone therapies and relapse. We know that some proteins are involved in the development of resistance to these treatments. Once we identify what these proteins are, we can study them more in depth to understand how they work and how they help breast cancer cells to resist treatment. To gain this understanding, we use laboratory models mimicking how breast cancer cells develop resistance to drugs. In our lab, we have already identified some of the proteins that may be helping breast cancer cells survive and resist treatment and we are studying them in more detail at the moment.
Could you give us some insight into the impact of this project?
If we understand what proteins are helping breast cancer to develop resistance to therapy, we could predict which patients are more likely to relapse. And if we understand what exactly those proteins do, we could design and offer these patients new drugs targeting these specific proteins to stop the disease returning.
What does your typical day involve?
I usually wake up before 7.00 am to get ready for work. I enjoy having a good breakfast to prepare me for the day ahead and then catch a bus to work using this time to read the news. My working days are usually quite busy. I spend my typical day doing experiments, analysing data, reading, writing, and attending meeting and talks. I usually walk home at the end of the day and I spend the rest of the evening swimming, cooking, reading or meeting friends. I like relaxing and spending time with friends in the evening. I am in bed at around 11.30 pm.
What has been your most memorable work moment?
I always enjoy when a challenging research project is accepted for publication in a scientific journal.
What’s the worst part of your job?
The worst and most frustrating part of my job is when a scientific journal rejects a paper that we prepared for publication, especially when I worked very hard on it, both carrying out the experiments and writing up the results.
What’s the best part?
I enjoy interpreting what the results from my experiments mean and writing papers for publication in scientific journals.
If you weren’t a researcher what would your dream job be?
Probably a travel writer.