The newly established London Cancer PhD Student network recently held its first event, which attracted over 60 PhD students from across London to the Barts Cancer Institute (BCI). Speakers from six institutes, including the BCI, University College London, Imperial College London, King’s College London, the Institute of Cancer Research and the Francis Crick Institute, gave short chalk talks to describe their research, explaining how they are developing new in vitro models to study cancer resistance, exploiting field cancerisation and its uses for biomarker development or the use of novel BiTes (bispecific antibodies) in immunotherapy.
“We wanted to set up a network run by PhD students for PhD students that would bring together students from across London in an informal setting to exchange ideas, learn about what is being done in other campuses and to encourage students to start building their own networks for the future” said Laura Tovini, one of the cofounders of the London Cancer PhD Student network from the BCI. “Together with Leonie,” another BCI PhD student, “we reached out to other student representatives, and the enthusiasm for the idea was overwhelming.”
As described in a variety of recent articles1,2, PhD students can sometimes feel insular and lonely, thus developing a sense of community and support is at the heart of the network’s aims. Particularly in a city like London, with a high concentration of top cancer institutes, more can be done to bring students and researchers together more often. With this in mind, the kick-off event, held on 4th July, provided a platform for PhD students from London to get to know each other, to discuss their science, ask for advice and foster collaborations. As an event with only students attending, even the simplest questions could be asked and debated.
The 10-minute chalk talk format allowed the attendees to focus on the overall goals and significance of individual PhD projects and sparked conversations about specific techniques as well as broader topics regarding how current cancer research could change healthcare in the future.
“This network is really what was missing. I didn’t know there are others in London working on such similar things that can help me set up some of my assays without having to reinvent the wheel,” one of the participating students said.
Quarterly chalk talks will be run on a rotational basis at the participating institutes and in April 2020 the network hopes to hold its first student conference here at the BCI. The next event will be held in October at Imperial College London.
Article by Leonie Kohlhammer, BCI PhD student
Follow the London Cancer PhD Student Network on Twitter here.