Where were you before joining the Crick?
I was at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT in Boston, where I was a postdoc in Tyler Jacks’s group. Before that, I carried out my PhD training in Douglas Hanahan’s group at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.
What are your plans for your group at the Crick?
Broadly, we’ll be looking at the relationship between tumour cells and the nervous system. There are neural fibres in tumours, but they’re not something that’s been well-researched in the past.
I want to find out how cells within tumours interact and communicate with one another locally, with special focus on neuronal signalling. I’m also interested in elucidating how cells in tumours might communicate with the rest of the body remotely, via the nervous system. We’ll also be looking at how the body senses and responds to these interactions, and hopefully using these findings to develop new treatments.
What attracted you to the Crick?
Everything! Tyler Jacks, my postdoc supervisor, sits on the Crick’s Scientific Advisory Board and he had always highly recommended it as a place to start an independent research career. His recommendations turned out to be right when I came for my interview. I immediately knew that the Crick was the place to turn my scientific goals into a reality.
As I’m working at the intersection of two distinct fields, cancer biology and neuroscience, I always knew that an interdisciplinary institute was where I wanted to be. At the Crick, I can collaborate with people from a huge range of different specialisms, all of whom are at the top of their field.
The core facilities were also a big selling point. They’re staffed with passionate and knowledgeable people, who have already been so helpful.
I’m excited to start working with some of the techniques that I’ve heard about before, but have never had a chance to try, or even start to develop some new techniques that only existed in my imagination. All these are made possible with the gracious help from the superb team here at the Crick.
Above all, it was the freedom and support offered by the Crick that appealed to me. My research could be described as ‘risky’, as it’s not a well-established field, but everyone at the Crick was enthusiastic and willing to take a chance on it. And I love London – so that was a bonus!
How straightforward was it to set up your lab during the pandemic?
I’ve been very lucky. The pandemic hasn’t affected my plans too much. I was able to have my interviews before lockdown started, and since then I’ve been able to take my time setting up the group.
Some of the other group leaders and HR at the Crick have been helping me out tremendously with recruiting my first lab members, and that made the process so much easier.
How have the first couple of weeks been?
It’s been overwhelming – in a good way! The other members of my lab started at the same time I did, so we’ve all be getting to grips with things together.
Everyone has been so welcoming, especially the science operations staff who have been helping me settle in. So many of the core facility staff and other group leaders have been knocking on my door and introducing themselves.
It’s been a great start, and I know that working together in the same building wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing work of the COVID-19 testing team keeping everyone safe.