Aisah Aubdool

Career progression

1. Pharmacology BSc

2. MRes

3. PhD

4. Postdoc

5. Academia (prospective)

Aisah is a postdoctoral researcher at the William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary University of London.

What is your career pathway to date (including your education)?

I completed my undergraduate degree in pharmacology at King’s College London in 2009, with a final year project working with sensory neurons in the lab of Dr Domenico Spina. I then embarked on a four year BBSRC PhD studentship, which consisted of an MRes in the first year (2010). During that time, I gained extensive in vivo training in integrative pharmacology and physiology in the lab of Professor Susan Brain, Dr Andy Grant and Dr Manasi Nandi. My PhD (2011-14) focused on understanding the role of the ion channel TRPA1 in the vasculature and we identified TRPA1 as a cold sensor in vivo. I was fascinated by sensory neurons and did my first postdoc with Professor Susan Brain where I studied the effects of a novel calcitonin gene-related peptide analogue provided by Novo Nordisk in experimental models of hypertension and heart failure. In 2016, I moved to Professor Adrian Hobbs’ lab at William Harvey Research Institute (WHRI), where I am now studying the role of C-type natriuretic peptide in angiogenesis and vascular remodeling in cardiovascular homeostasis and disease.

What do you do? What does a typical week look like to you?

I do not have a typical week but I spent most of my time at the bench side, with a mixture of in vitro and in vivo experiments. Over the past year, I have been setting up experimental models of cardiovascular disease at WHRI, and I am using various non-invasive imaging techniques to map the changes that take place in the vasculature. I also harvest cells from the lung to grow in culture so I can test the action of drugs. To fully understand how C-type natriuretic peptide works in the vasculature, my project focuses on using different pharmacological inhibitors and cell-specific transgenic mice, which is very exciting for any pharmacologist. I enjoy imaging and hence, I spend long hours in dark rooms, analysing microscopic images.

A lot of my time is spent on planning each day carefully to maximize output as we work collaboratively, sharing procedure rooms, equipment and tissue at the institute. I spend most of my evenings analysing my data, planning my experiments, preparing for presentations for lab meetings or conferences, writing or catching up with scientific literature.

As a Society ambassador, I am involved in various outreach/public engagement activities and provide support for the pharmacology undergraduate students at both Queen Mary University of London and King’s College London. I have recently joined the Society's Policy & Public Engagement Committee where I am working closely with the team to promote and advance pharmacology with the public and policy makers. As an Editorial Board member of Pharmacology Matters, I am often involved in writing and editing contents for the magazine.

Whilst I see my research more as a way of life rather than a job, I also make time for baking, crafting and gardening which I find very rewarding and sometimes this is when one often thinks of the great ideas.

What do you like and dislike the most about your current position?

I like the flexibility of being an academic postdoc. I was fortunate to be trained by Professor Susan Brain, who is an amazing pharmacologist and who introduced me to the world of vascular biology. At the moment, I am enthused to study the functions of blood vessels and the little wonders of C-type natriuretic peptide. I feel privileged to be mentored by Professor Adrian Hobbs and be part of a great research team. I thoroughly enjoy working on my two projects, which is allowing me to gain extensive training in cardiovascular pharmacology. The best feeling is one of those evenings when you draw a graph and it jumps out of your computer screen, you feel extremely happy and cannot go to sleep. For this feeling, I can spend ages at the benchside.

I dislike short funding contracts in academia but can help focus your research interests and explore funding opportunities.

How do you see your career further progressing in the future?

I am determined to establish myself as an independent scientist but I am just at the start of my journey. I am looking forward to using my acquired skills to explore all sorts of avenues that are intellectually stimulating in an academic career. It is a very competitive field and at the moment I do not have a plan B. I hope that one day the research I have done or contributed to will improve people’s lives.

What three pieces of advice would you give someone keen on developing a career in your area of work?

If you have a passion for science, like drug discovery and want to understand how drugs work, pharmacology is a fascinating undergraduate subject to study.

A four year PhD studentship with an MRes in the first year is very rewarding, especially if you did not take a year out in industry or had a summer studentship in your final year. Spending a few weeks/summer working in your mentor’s lab will help you choose the correct lab and/or area of interest. Anticipate disappointments – don’t be disheartened with negative results or failed experiments, and don’t be afraid to ask ‘simple and na├»ve’ questions!

Find what you are passionate about and stick with it! Network, collaborate and keep up-to-date with the scientific literature. Take every given opportunity to talk about your work and educate younger generations of scientists about pharmacology.

You can follow Aisah on twitter @Dr_A_Cubed.

Published: 07 Sep 2017 in Industry