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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.

Oliver Pickford Scienti

Oliver Pickford Scienti

Oliver Pickford Scienti is doing a PhD in the Multimodal Molecular Imaging team which involves using gold nanoparticles to help improve the effectiveness of radiotherapy.

What is your background?

My first degree was Chemistry with the Open University, and then I got my second degree in Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics at the University of Surrey.

What are you studying now/who with?

I am doing a PhD in the Multimodal Molecular Imaging Team in Sutton. My project involves using gold nanoparticles to help improve the effectiveness of radiotherapy.

The safe use of these particles will require the ability to see and quantify them inside a patient, so I am working on developing and comparing two methods of imaging that could do this.

Why did you want to study at the ICR?

The ICR was offering a PhD project that allowed me to use both my chemistry and physics knowledge in a single job, which was a dream come true.

In addition, the ICR is set up to be far more multidisciplinary than most universities (with biologists, chemists and physicists often collaborating together on projects) meaning I would be able to benefit from a range of expertise that is difficult to find in other institutions.

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

Aside from the friendly and supportive environment, I’d say the best thing is that you’re working with people who have a real passion for what they’re doing.

You know that you’re working together towards a good cause, and that your project is likely to have an impact in the real world. The close links with The Royal Marsden Hospital also mean you get input from clinicians very easily.

What do you do to unwind in your spare time?

I do martial arts 2-3 times a week to help me relax. There’s nothing quite like dodging punches to distract you from thoughts of your PhD project. I also find this practical, physical time is a great alternative to the more sedate, intellectual way most of my week goes.

One fun fact about you

I am double jointed – a fact that wasn’t so good in primary school, as it meant always losing games of thumb war, but in martial arts can be really useful to avoid getting hurt!

Any tips/advice for future students?

At work, get to know your fellow students and get a diary to keep track of your time commitments. This will avoid meetings creeping up on you or missing important deadlines.

Outside of work, don’t forget to have a personal life. It’s too easy to get caught up in your work but if you don’t balance it with a healthy home life (and in my case, enough sleep!) then you will all too easily burn out.

Do you know what you want to do next?

Although I’m still a way from finishing my project, I can see a few interesting directions that I could take the work in, so I think ideally I’d like to find funding to stay on at the ICR and do a postdoc so that I can continue with my work.

What opportunities has studying at the ICR given you?

I’ve had the opportunity to go to several conferences and training courses abroad, had ample experience practicing giving presentations (something that terrified me when I started) and have even been able to work with external companies on research.

I can honestly say that the opportunities for networking, training and generally furthering my career have been better than I ever imagined.

My friends doing PhDs elsewhere are constantly amazed at the responsibilities/opportunities I’ve had, considering I am only just finishing my second year of the PhD.

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