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The Institute of Cancer Research attracts the very best science graduates and clinicians to carry out cutting-edge research and make the discoveries that defeat cancer. Our students enjoy working in a high-tech and collaborative environment, in which their research can be translated into direct benefits for patients.

Maria Coakley

Maria Coakley

Maria Coakley is a Clinical Research Fellow carrying out her PhD in the Division of Breast Cancer Research at the ICR. Her project involves working with patient samples collected from a clinical trial to investigate the evolution of triple-negative breast cancers.

What is your educational/work background?

I studied medicine at the National University of Ireland, Galway, before starting my postgraduate training in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin. As part of my Core Medical Training, I had the opportunity to undertake six months of a medical residency at the Mayo Clinic, USA. In 2016, I commenced specialist registrar training in medical oncology, based at the Royal Marsden Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Why did you want to study at the ICR?

The ICR is a world-renowned centre for cancer research and has strong links to clinical teams at The Royal Marsden. This means my research has a clear clinical focus and translational relevance.

What are you most proud of?

Throughout my career to date, I have worked in institutions that work to improve the lives of patients and their families - whether this is patient-facing or in a research capacity. 

What’s the best thing about working at the ICR?

At the ICR people are dedicated to and passionate about science, creating a dynamic academic environment.

What opportunities has studying at the ICR given you?

My PhD has given me a great opportunity to develop a broad range of research and analytic skills which I would not have had the time or resources to do if I had continued to work in clinical practice full time. 

What’s it like to study at the ICR with a medical background?

My team has had many clinical fellows pass through the laboratory, therefore when I joined the team, my scientific colleagues were patient and understanding as I developed my research and laboratory skills. I think this experience within the ICR of working with people from a clinical background is extremely valuable in ensuring smooth transitions from clinic to the laboratory for clinical fellows.

How do you take part in life at the ICR outside your studies?

I am a member of the student immunology group, and I recently signed up to be a student representative on the clinical academic forum. These have been great ways to interact and meet with colleagues outside of my team.

Do you know what you want to do next?

I am due to return to clinical practice in 2022. I wish to combine my love of medicine and research into my future career.

What do you do to unwind in your spare time?

I have a great love of music and have been a member of a choir, London Contemporary Voices, throughout the time I have lived in London. I also love to cycle, swim and do yoga.