My name is Jessica Traynor and I am a second year PhD student at the University of Manchester. My research is based on producing a localised drug delivery system for people suffering from endometriosis. Endometriosis is a common gynaecological condition that affects roughly 10% of women at reproductive age. Endometriosis occurs when lesions grow outside of the uterus. These lesions can cause painful periods, pelvic pain and fatigue. Although this disease is common, the treatment options are still limited. Women are most likely to be given anti-inflammatory drugs, hormone-based therapies (such as the pill or the coil) or undergo surgery to remove the lesions. These treatment options are not ideal, especially surgery, as there is a high chance the lesions will grow back.
My lab work is trying to find a way to deliver old and new drugs directly onto the lesions. This will hopefully stop the lesions from growing as well as reduce the side effects of these drugs!
My initial interest in pharmacology (the study of drugs) began in sixth form. I knew that I was interested in science in general during my GCSEs, so I picked biology, chemistry, physics and maths. I realised that although Biology wasn’t my strongest subject, I found it the most interesting, especially topics surrounding the human body and disease. I decided to look into biomedical sciences for University, which I soon realised included a lot of other topics, such as genetics, biochemistry and immunology. When I looked at the list, I found pharmacology the most interesting subject as I wanted to learn more about the production of drugs and treating diseases. I chose to study pharmacology at Newcastle University.
In my final year at Newcastle I started my research project, which was based on lithium action within the brain and how this can help treat bipolar disorder. This made me realise that I loved the research environment; I loved researching a topic where the answer was unknown.
Overall, my degree taught me a lot of research techniques that can be brought into any research environment, of course, not all labs are the same but University provided me with the confidence to learn and master techniques that I’d never seen before!
I graduated from Newcastle in 2017 with a first class degree in Pharmacology, and if I’m truly honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do next! I knew I wanted to carry on in research, but I wasn’t certain on where or on what topic. I spent the year researching PhD topics whilst working within an NHS virology lab as a research assistant. I found this PhD online and thought it was right up my street! Not only was it a PhD based on drug design/delivery but it was also based around an under-researched disease that affects so many women. I had a skype interview with the supervisors and then was put forward for funding!
My lab group consists of people from different backgrounds, whether that is pharmacology, cancer research or pharmacy. We all work alongside other groups to gain a better understanding of disease and its treatment. We all use a variety of different techniques throughout our research, so every day is different. Personally, I find my day is split between lab work, writing papers/reviews, planning future studies and teaching!
After my PhD, I don’t have a set plan on what I want to do next! My opinions may change throughout the years and I could learn new skills that change my perception on what I want my career to be!
If you want to find out more about endometriosis and its effects on women, the BBC have recently produced a popular article explaining what endometriosis is and the idea of the ‘gender pain gap’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/stories-49925760/endometriosis-the-condition-that-can-take-over-seven-years-to-diagnose)
To learn more about the research that is happening in my faculty: (https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/research/)
If you want more information about Biomedical Sciences/Pharmacology you can find that here (https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/2020/00532/bsc-biomedical-sciences/) and here (https://www.prospects.ac.uk/careers-advice/what-can-i-do-with-my-degree/pharmacology)
Something that sparked my interest in the treatment of disease was a podcast that talks about medical history, you can give it a listen if you’re interested, too! (https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/research/)