PhDs are often extremely complex bodies of work, especially those undertaken by postgraduate students within the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health. In a series of blog posts from current PhD students, we’re aiming to give those who are considering postgraduate research (PGR), as well as anyone who generally has an interest in scientific research, an idea of the kind of work that is currently being undertaken by PGR students at The University of Manchester…
My name is Catia Goncalves, I’m from Porto in Portugal and the title of my PhD is “Utilising temperature-entrainment mechanisms to boost musculoskeletal circadian clocks: implications in tissue degeneration and repair”.
In summary, the main focus of my PhD is on Osteoarthritis and how to slow down the progression of the disease. Prior to beginning my PhD, our lab discovered that a body clock in the cartilage cells could be the cause of suffering in people with Osteoarthritis. We found that the body clock would not work pork properly when there was a change in body temperature and so a lot of the normal physical processes in the joints stopped working properly. My project now looks specifically at what happens when a change in body temperature occurs and what is happening to the clock at a molecular level. We will use cartilage from mice and patients so that we can determine the best conditions for the body to be at in order to make the cartilage clocks work normally. It is hoped that this study will be able to be used to slow down the progression of OS.
Before starting my PhD I worked as a researcher in the same lab I undertook my MSc research project at the Institute for Research and Innovation in Health Sciences (i3S) in Porto. The reason why I left Porto in pursuit of a PhD was because of my desire to learn and my aspiration to make practical use of the available scientific knowledge to bring about improvements to the wellbeing of human societies. It is also a great way to diversify your skillset and acquire transferable skills that could be useful in any job, such as oral and written communication, planning and project management, and networking.
The pursuit of a PhD emerged as a natural consequence of my desire to learn and my aspiration to make practical use of the available scientific knowledge to bring about improvements to the wellbeing of human societies. It is also a great way to diversify your skillset and to acquire transferable skills that could be useful in any job, such as oral and written communication, planning and project management, and networking.
I found the Wellcome Trust PhD programme particularly attractive because it offered me the invaluable opportunity to experience a breadth of research topics and cutting-edge approaches through its rotation scheme. In my opinion, this has helped me to forge links that are vital to developing my project and launching my career as a researcher. In addition to this, Manchester is one of the leading universities in the UK and enjoys an unparalleled position in the field of Molecular and Cellular Biology. It has a very experienced scientific community, great research facilities and an interdisciplinary environment that allows you to thrive. I love it here!
The PhD itself has been both challenging but deeply rewarding and on the whole, I am pleased with what I have achieved so far. Failure is a big part of scientific research and it can be quite demotivating at times. However, I try to see it as a learning experience that allows me to improve my problem-solving skills and learn new techniques. There is nothing quite like the feeling of achievement you get when you finally solve it!
It always helps to have fantastic facilities and resources and that’s exactly what we have access to here. There is a great support system in place and plenty of opportunities to interact with other researchers by attending seminars and social gatherings. You can also take advantage of all the workshops and training events to further develop your research and transferable skills.
Overall, I’m thoroughly enjoying my PhD and living and working in Manchester. It’s not just the university that makes Manchester so great; it is a vibrant city with a fantastic multicultural atmosphere. You will never find yourself bored in this city; there is always something going on. However, if you do find yourself bored Manchester is within easy reach of awesome places like the Lake or Peak Districts, York and London.