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Photo Credit - Shilan Abdullah

Ahsen Ustaoglu

PhD Student

Queen Mary University of London

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If you find a subject, topic, or particular talk exciting, don't be afraid to dig deeper, ask questions and e-mail people!

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WHAT DO YOU DO?

I investigate how molecular changes in the oesophageal mucosa determine pain perception in patients with different clinical diagnoses of gastroesophageal reflux disease using endoscopic biopsies. With strong clinical links to gastroenterologists, my research interests revolve around the translational relevance of our findings of molecular targets to improve patients' quality of life by alleviating their heartburn symptoms.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?

Scientific research has been my ambition since undertaking an extended project qualification alongside my A levels. Throughout my studies of biomedical science, I was fascinated by the molecular complexity of diseases like systemic inflammation. My research project on breast cancer in my final year of BSc at Barts Cancer Institute, and project rotations during my MRes in translational cancer medicine at King's both deepened my interest in the translational application of fundamental basic science research, leading me to a clinically-focused PhD project in neurogastroenterology.

HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?

Obstacles are a frequent occurrence during a doctoral degree, particularly during a global pandemic. By being honest about how I am feeling, and openly asking for help when I feel stuck, I make sure that I get the right support from my supervisors, colleagues, and loved ones to get through a challenge and save energy for future roadblocks.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"

That it is possible to come to a foreign country not speaking the language, and learn it to such a level that you surpass its native speakers in understanding its literature, and can build up the confidence to deliver research talks to an audience of world experts in an international conference!

WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?

The quest for generation of knowledge in the field of biomedical science has a fundamental role in how we as a society operate, as Covid-19 has so bitterly shown. Being at the forefront of this knowledge generation in a niche area that has previously been unexplored has given me enough motivation to get me through to the last year of my PhD and still have the desire to progress in academia in STEM.

BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?

If you find a subject, topic, or particular talk exciting, don't be afraid to dig deeper, ask questions and e-mail people! Having conversations with individuals who you look up to working in areas that you find fascinating is how you can create a roadmap for yourself. Having clear aims and goals will stimulate you to reach your end destination- even if you take diversions along the way or face roadblocks, having the end goal in mind will enable you to overcome any challenge that comes your way. Don't be afraid to work extra hard, and ask for extra help to get the grades that you need and deserve.

INSPIRATION

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I’m a free human being with an independent will.”- Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre.