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Dr Serena Nik-Zainal: Choosing a CRUK Fellowship

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by Cancer Research UK | Research Feature

21 March 2017

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Dr Serena Nik-Zainal

We recently awarded Serena an Advanced Clinician Scientist Fellowship (ACSF) to develop a detailed understanding of the mutational signatures that occur in cancer cells. Here she explains why she chose CRUK to further her career.

“I applied to CRUK because their vision and highly established networks fitted exactly with where I want to take my career and what I need to achieve this. Their focus on turning academic research into patient benefit really appealed to me.

My research had been looking at patterns of mutations that arise as cells become cancerous, caused by factors such as smoking and ultraviolet light. I’d been building an understanding of these mutational signatures, and could see this work held exciting potential for clinical use.

My first contact with CRUK was successfully applying for Pioneer Award funding of £200,000 to show that mutational signatures can help predict which drugs a cancer will best respond to, thus improving treatment outcomes. The whole experience was incredibly positive and immediately opened up doors for me in a way I hadn’t imagined. I had access to a whole new world of people, particularly on the clinical side that I’m so interested in.

When it came to considering fellowships, I knew applying for the Advanced Clinical Scientist Fellowship would be the right choice for me.

CRUK is extremely supportive, welcoming and positive. They really take the time and effort to understand you and your science and what it needs to progress, and they really listen to you.

CRUK also provides flexibility to fund your specific research needs, which I really value.

The five year award gives me the ability to spread my research wings and explore a much more sophisticated understanding of the mutational signatures. The fellowships provide a great level of autonomy and flexibility, which is very powerful to advance research. I can achieve my aims, however and wherever I can, with an opportunity to explore what I believe to be the most important aspects of the science to make my work useful.

I’m also now part of a team funded by the incredible CRUK Grand Challenge. It’s another example of how CRUK is prepared to think differently, fund differently, and provide support in ambitious ways, to achieve real results in cancer research. I’m so proud to be part of that.”

Dr Serena Nik-ZainalProfile: Dr Serena Nik-Zainal

Serena began her career qualifying in medicine from the University of Cambridge in 2000 and completing specialist training in clinical genetics. She then began research hunting down the patterns of mutations that occur in cancer cells at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, completing a PhD under Professor Mike Stratton in 2012.

In 2014 we awarded Serena the CRUK Future Leaders Prize in recognition of researchers who have demonstrated world-leading potential within 10 years of completing a PhD.

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