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Early Career Pharmacologists Advisory Group (ECPAG) update

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Published: 12 May 2022

Since the previous Early Career Pharmacologists Advisory Group (ECPAG) report, several changes have happened including new additions to the team. Here, we wanted to give a short summary of what the ECPAG does, introduce the new members, and finally shortly outline our vision of 2022.

So what is ECPAG and what do we do? 

The ECPAG is a sub-committee within the British Pharmacology Society comprised of a diverse group of members mostly at the initial stages of their careers. Our goal is to work closely with researchers and the Society's members at all career stages to provide opportunities and outreach to early career researchers in the Society around the world. The ECPAG is an important channel between early career members and the Society's council and other committees (one of which being the Pharmacology Matters magazine!) and is involved in planning workshops, conferences and other fun events.

ECPAG newest additions: 

As mentioned, over the last couple of months some changes have taken place within ECPAG and we wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to the new chair Emily Hobson, two of the new Early Career Trustees Alina Zorn and Maria Ardelean, as well as the new ECPAG – Pharmacology Matters co-liaisons James Boncan and Sarah Hesse. You can get to know them a bit better below. 

Emily Hobson

 

My name is Emily and I am the new Chair of the Early Career Pharmacologist Advisory Group (ECPAG) at the British Pharmacological Society. I am currently in the third year of my PhD in cancer pharmacology in the School of Pharmacy at the University of East Anglia, and volunteer as the early career representative for the Norwich Cancer Research Network (NCRN).  

I was first introduced to the Society while studying for my undergraduate degree in Pharmacology and Drug Discovery at the University of East Anglia, during which I attended my first Pharmacology conference in 2018 in London. This experience really stayed with me throughout my studies, having made me feel more included and connected to the wider pharmacology community. After graduating from my undergraduate degree, I began my PhD in the lab of Professor Maria O’Connell in 2019, where I am currently researching the role of the NFE2 family of proteins in cancer.    

Inspired by the welcoming and supportive atmosphere of the British Pharmacological Society, in 2020, I was delighted to join ECPAG as the Deputy Chair. This role gave me the chance to not only gain knowledge on how the society is governed, but also allowed me to work alongside many other great early career and senior members of the Society, to ensure that the early career voice is heard and included in all aspects of the society. I also had the chance to co-chair sessions at Society meetings, as well as representing the Society at events such as Stand Up For Science 2020, Parliamentary Links Day 2021 and the Royal Society of Biology’s Bioscience 2021 careers day.  

This year, I am honoured to be taking over as the new Chair of ECPAG, where I am excited to continue and further the ECPAG vision alongside my other ECPAG members. I also currently serve on the Society's Investment Policy Review Group as the early career member representative. The British Pharmacological Society has always been a very supportive and welcoming place for me as an early career researcher, so I am really looking forward to continuing the fantastic work that ECPAG has achieved.

Alina Zorn

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My name is Alina and I am the new Early Career Trustee for the Society. I graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 2021 with a degree in Biomedical Sciences (Pharmacology & Biobusiness) and am currently undertaking a Master of Research (MRes) project there. The aim of my MRes project is to investigate how we could potentially target the endocannabinoid system for the treatment of colorectal cancer.   

I joined the British Pharmacological Society as an undergraduate member when I started my pharmacology degree in 2017 and have benefitted greatly from the opportunities the Society offers to its undergraduate members. Some of the highlights of my undergraduate degree were attending the Pharmacology 2019 meeting in Edinburgh, in addition to presenting my research at the annual meetings in 2020 and 2021. I have also had the privilege of acting as one of the first Network Leaders for the Undergraduate Network of the Society. This has given me the opportunity to work alongside my co-Network Leaders and organise undergraduate-orientated events and help grow the undergraduate community within the Society.  

Now that I have moved into the early stages of my career, I am delighted to join ECPAG as the Early Career Trustee for the Society. I wish to work towards new ways to engage early career members within the Society and ensure that they are represented in the decision-making processes at the Society. 

Maria Ardelean

 

My name is Maria and I am a PhD student in the Department of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology at University College London (UCL). My research focuses on developing modulators of an ion channel involved in cystic fibrosis and cholera, namely cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR).  I completed my MSci Biomedical Sciences and Organic Chemistry degree at UCL, with a year abroad at the University of Toronto. I became a member of the British Pharmacological Society in 2018 and I am incredibly grateful for the support that the Society has given to my research. First, I received the Vacation Studentship in 2020 to study mechanisms of CFTR activation. Afterwards, I was awarded the AJ Clark Studentship in 2021 to pursue my doctoral studies in developing CFTR inhibitors that could act as therapies for the management of cholera. At the moment, I am part of ECPAG and I am very excited to raise the profile of pharmacology through education and by connecting with other early career pharmacologists. 

James Boncan

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My name is James Boncan, and I am currently both a member of the Pharmacology Matters (PM) editorial team and have a joint role with Sarah Hesse, acting as a ‘link’ between the PM and ECPAG. I have been a member of the British Pharmacology Society since 2019 and during my time I have attended and presented at multiple Pharmacology flagships conferences, presenting research from both my Master’s degree as well as my PhD.  

Currently, I am in the final year of my PhD at Queen’s University Belfast. My project focuses on identifying novel therapies for the treatment of blood cancers, specifically acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. The focus of these therapies is snake venom, a natural source of bioactive molecules and compounds that have been explored as potential treatments for a plethora of diseases since the turn of the 19th century. It was this topic that I wrote my first piece for the PM maazine back in August 2020. Since then, I have further contributed to the magazine by co-authoring an article on another topic of interest to me, the importance of research integrity.  

Outside of the laboratory, I am a dedicated sports fan and I am also a keen traveller, with several countries on my ‘bucket list’ including Canada, Japan and South Korea. Hopefully one day my research career will bring me there! 

Now that I have taken up this new and exciting joint role within the ECPAG and PM working groups, it is my aim to use all of the skills and experiences I have gained from working with the Society over the past three years to inspire and encourage other early career scientists and pharmacologists to get involved with the Society. Through my attendance of ECPAG and PM meetings, as well as by working in close collaboration with Sarah, we hope to encourage early career researchers to get involved with both the Society and the magazine. This will involve showcasing research themes and members interests, whilst also working closely with other members of these groups to design workshops and educational tools which we believe will have a positive impact, not only on the members of the Society, but on researchers around the world. We hope you will stay tuned for future updates! 

Sarah Hesse

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My name is Sarah and, like James, I am both a member of the Pharmacology Matters (PM) Editorial Board, and work as the ECPAG – PM liaison alongside James. I joined the British Pharmacological Society at the beginning of my PhD and have attended several meetings both in person and virtually. I joined the editorial board of PM about a year ago and it has been great to work alongside so many amazing people and to be able to read and edit articles about all kinds of topics before they get published. One of my highlights so far has been judging the junior writing competition. The articles were fantastic covering some really cool science and written by such young and keen scientists! 

I am also a final year PhD student at the Centre for Translational Pharmacology, University of Glasgow, supervised by Sophie Bradley and Andrew Tobin. My PhD focuses on targeting the M1 muscarinic receptor in neurodegeneration and I hope to wrap up my thesis by the end of the year, so stay tuned. 

I changed my PhD to part-time along the way, which makes it a bit easier to juggle my research project with spending time with our toddler, and the unpredictable nature of endometriosis. I also enjoy public engagement activities and am involved in equality, diversity and inclusion work as the LGBT champion within my research institute.  

I joined both the editorial board of Pharmacology Matters and took up my role as the PM – ECPAG liaison to try to make science more inclusive for everyone, no matter what. 

Twitter: @ScienceAndSarah 

Looking ahead 

The ECPAG will continue to promote early career pharmacologists’ voices within the pharmacology and Society communities and provide opportunities to the early career members. If you would like to get more involved with ECPAG or any of the other Society groups and activities, you can find information on our volunteer page.

Finally, we would especially like to thank Aidan Seeley for doing such a fantastic job of promoting involvement and opportunities for all early career pharmacologists during his time in ECPAG and we aim to build on this work.

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Published: 12 May 2022

About the author

Emily Hobson


Emily is an early career member of the Society, currently in the third year of her PhD studies at the University of East Anglia, UK. Her research is in the lab of Professor Maria O'Connell, exploring the role of the NFE2 family of proteins in cancer. Emily is Chair of the Society’s Early Career Pharmacologists Advisory Group (ECPAG), and the early career representative of the Norwich Cancer Research Network.

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