Matthew Fittall, 2016 Crick-CRUK doctoral clinical fellow, Peter Van Loo's lab
I had flirted with research a couple of times before finally starting a PhD at the Crick. Like many medical students, I did an undergraduate lab project but whilst I enjoyed the camaraderie of the lab and the challenge of experimental design it wasn't such a roaring success that I wanted to put medical school on hold.
Once in oncology training I was lucky to be able to use an ACF placement for another nine months experience in a more translational lab. For me, already being embedded in my specialty made this much more valuable. I have found lab research has given me more of an insight into the cancer as a disease. It also helped me understand more of the science that underlies the therapies we use.
As a clinical oncology trainee I chose to get my final FRCR exams out of the way before a PhD, knowing I would be even older and greyer by the time I came back. As an ST6, this limited the window of opportunity to step out of training and so I chose to broaden the net in looking for a PhD project and came across the CRUK-funded fellowships at the Crick.
Like many clinicians I knew little or nothing about the Crick before I applied so had to do my homework pretty fast. What I discovered has proved to be even more true since I started. The density of scientific talent is astounding making all the seminars fascinating, even when unrelated to cancer. The facilities and technology platforms make the process of experiments much easier.
My project, in Peter Van Loo's group, focuses on computational analysis of bone tumour genomics with a particular interest in intra-tumour heterogeneity. This has been another leap into the dark, as it is a very basic science project, but is proving hugely rewarding, and made all the easier by working with such a wonderful, friendly group of coffee-drinking boffins.