Thuvaraka Ware

Thuvaraka

Thuvaraka Ware, 2022 intake Crick doctoral clinical fellow, Carola Vinuesa’s lab

I didn’t always know I wanted to be a clinician scientist. After my undergraduate medical degree at Oxford and UCL, where I focused on immunology – I knew I loved this area already – I continued on the conveyor belt until I’d CCT’d as a GP (whilst having 3 children en route).  But during my first 7 years as a doctor, I did 2 renal jobs and I was hooked – nothing I did subsequently ever compared to the breadth and interest of pathologies I saw in this field. And much of the fun in nephrology lies in immunology, whether it is managing complex renal transplant recipients or patients with systemic autoimmune diseases like SLE or vasculitis – and the clinical work is so closely aligned to research. At this point, and after almost a decade since qualifying, I realised academic nephrology was for me and with some hard graft and CV buffing, I returned to hospital medicine as an NIHR renal registrar at the Royal Free Hospital, where I focussed on the immunology of recurrent infections in immunocompromised patients. 
 

The beauty of a PhD at the Crick, unparalleled to almost anywhere else, is the open access we have to some of the most advanced scientific technologies in the world, led by some of the most prominent figures in that field.

The more time I spent in the lab working with the immune system, the more I wanted to delve deeper. When I was planning my next steps in research, I came across an especially interesting project on SLE in Professor Carola Vinuesa’s Immunology lab at the Crick. The application process seemed straight forward, and I had enough data from my academic renal post to present recent work. I had some reservations about taking more time out of training given that I was already older and had a family, but to not have done it, for me, would have been worse. 
 
My PhD has, so far, been interesting, challenging and stimulating. I am working on HLA and the heterogeneity of SLE, and the role of CD8 T cells in this context. My secondary supervisor, Professor Anisur Rahman is a consultant rheumatologist at UCH and has helped me develop more clinical research skills and recruit participants to our study. I am fortunate to be able to do a PhD that involves both animal and human work allowing me to directly explore findings in disease in mouse models with the potential for translation back into humans.  I have had a steep learning curve, going from some lab experience to now working with transgenic mice and learning new skills like single cell transcriptomics. The beauty of a PhD at the Crick, unparalleled to almost anywhere else, is the open access we have to some of the most advanced scientific technologies in the world, led by some of the most prominent figures in that field. The PhD teaching programme and learning modules available go well beyond daily lectures on science and incorporate a wide array of skills – image analysis and presentation skills, to things like statistics and public engagement. The philosophy of transparency and collaboration at the Crick means that I am learning new things every day. 
 
The flexibility of working here has also meant that I can juggle being a mother and working full time. I have been able to plan my experiments around my children’ schedule and my lab and primary supervisor are very sympathetic to and understands the pressures involved in this dynamic. Their support has been immeasurably helpful and has helped me feel like I can get the most out of my PhD.