Virtual Christmas Symposium Biology in Transition

Join the London Innovation Society to hear about the exciting, translational research of PhD students and early career scientists from top research institutions.
Register here


All speakers will talk about their current work and give some background about how they got to where they are now.


10:00 Welcome from LIS
10:10 Stephen Murtough Oesophageal Cancer
10:40 Katie Begg Overcoming resistance to cancer therapies
11:10 BREAK
11:20 Sara McDowell Breast Cancer Research
11:50 Carla Usai Hepatitis Research
12:20 LUNCH
13:00 Katie West The Immune System through Genetic Material
13:30 Katy Davis Plant cell wall engineering; a key to a carbon sink.
14:00 BREAK
14:20 Maryam Naguib Bioactive compounds in cancer treatment
14:50 Jason Chu Macrophage during wound healing
15:20 Closing Remarks from LIS



Stephen Murtough started working life as a pharmacist; however, he quickly realised that he’d stumbled along the wrong path and instead wanted to become a research scientist. So, he changed routes and completed a Masters in cancer biology at Barts Cancer Institute, QMUL, and was then accepted onto a PhD programme at Barts and The London Medical School and is currently in his final year. Happily, he thinks he’s found the right path.

In his talk, Stephen will discuss undergraduate and postgraduate university education, changing careers, and his doctoral research on a very rare oesophageal cancer predisposition syndrome.

Katie Begg

Katie has recently finished her PhD in cancer biology at King’s College London and will soon be starting work as a Postdoctoral Training Fellow at the Institute of Cancer Research.

After dabbling in several different areas of research including neuroscience, biotechnology and development, it was during her PhD that Katie became fixed on a mission to solve the answer to biology’s oldest problem: cancer. Now her work aims to understand why some cancer patients respond well to therapy, but others don’t. The goal is that this work can form the basis of new and better cancer treatments.

This talk will go over the many twists and turns that may appear on a path towards becoming a researcher, the importance of perseverance and open minds, and why now more than ever is the time to be a scientist.

Sara McDowell

“My name is Sara McDowell, and I am a final year PhD student researching breast cancer at Queen’s University Belfast. I am investigating how an enzyme called Cathepsin S could be driving the progression of a type of breast cancer called Triple Negative Breast Cancer. This type of breast cancer is particularly aggressive and difficult to treat, therefore research is needed to improve treatment options for patients.

I enjoyed Biology and Chemistry at school and chose to study Biochemistry at university, I especially enjoyed that this degree focused on the molecular basis of life and disease. Another highlight of my degree was that I had the opportunity to work in the biopharmaceutical industry in GlaxoSmithKline for a year, where I had my first experience in a laboratory. During my presentation, I’ll talk more in detail about my current work and my journey so far in laboratory research.”

Carla Usai

I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Blizard Institute (Queen Mary University of London), where I study the immune system of patients infected by Hepatitis B and D viruses.

After earning a BSc in Biotechnology and a MSc in Industrial Biotechnology at the University of Padua (Italy), I moved to the Spanish National Centre for Biotechnology as a Leonardo Da Vinci Fellow.

I obtained my Doctoral Degree in Biomedical Research from the University of Navarra (Spain), and during that period, I visited The Scripps Research Institute of San Diego (California).

The work experiences I had after my graduation, and the first steps of my scientific career abroad taught me valuable lessons that I want to share with our young audience.

Katie West

I am a third year PhD student based at the University of York. I grow tiny cells in incubators to study the immune system. I’m particularly interested in non-coding RNAs and how these affect male and female immune systems differently. I’ve previously worked as a lab technician, where I helped in the early stages of developing a lung cancer test.

I have also carried out an industrial placement at GSK in Stevenage where I used gene editing technology to study the immune system. My talk will focus on the work for my PhD and my experience leading up to it.

Katy Davis

Katy completed her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of York and is now a PhD student at the University of Cambridge. Although initially wanting to become an artist, Katy has so far chosen science as a career path, more specifically following a passion for plant biochemistry.

Her research now focuses on plant cell walls (a carbon sinkhole and relatively untapped renewable resource), trying to understand their structure and how they are made by enzymes.

Katy’s talk will focus on the path to a PhD and beyond, sharing some advice from her own successes and mistakes along the way.

Maryam Naguib

I’m a PhD student in Molecular Biology trying to discover the specific molecular and cellular mechanisms of two bioactive compounds found in cruciferous vegetables and the implications of these mechanisms on cancer treatment. I also have a Masters degree in Cancer and Clinical Oncology, where I focused on investigating immunotherapeutic techniques in the treatment of cancer. Before that, I did my BSc in Biomedical Sciences which gave me a great overall understanding of all the sub-specialties that includes.

Outside of academia, I’ve worked in the Clinical Trial Industry managing international clinical trials in a range of fields to get an understanding of the technicalities involved in getting a new drug approved. Right now, I’m interning at Centivax – an awesome biotech company in San Francisco that’s currently developing an antibody therapy for Covid-19.

Jason Chu

When I was a teenager, I was wavering between learning the ropes and taking over the family restaurant or living the pipe-dream of being an architect. Then science came calling.

Almost 10 years later, I am now a postgraduate researcher at the University of Manchester studying macrophage behaviour during wound healing and its relationship with ERK5.

However, beyond my own research I have accidentally found myself heavily involved in science in a wider perspective. I will highlight this journey of chance, and my experiences in public engagement, policy, teaching, and writing. It’s very much been a career of saying yes to random opportunities.

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