Hi! My name is Oksana and I am a new member of KI Career Blog team. Today is an official holiday (happy Swedish National Day!), so it is a perfect time to read a new blog post while having a lazy and tasty breakfast =)
Everything starts somewhere
My PhD journey started in Ukraine (where I am from) in 2015: I decided to become a full-time researcher after almost four years of clinical work. There was a simple reason – while working in the hospital, I was always interested, WHO and HOW EXACTLY defines what treatment and diagnostic protocols are the best options for a patient. I could only get the answers that I needed by becoming a researcher. It turned out to be the first important “switch” in my life.
In winter 2015, I came to Stockholm for an interview and fell in love with the city and KI. Sounds unusual, but I always liked cold summers and knew that I can only live in a city with an active cultural life.
Despite being trained as a general practitioner, I chose to do an internship on a project in endometrial cancer. In two months after the arrival, I was registered as a PhD student. The project included the epidemiological study as wells as small part of laboratory work. Therefore, I started working in the lab with immunohistochemistry that I previously only knew in theory as a diagnostic tool for clinical work. It was incredible! I still remember the first time I performed a staining and evaluated tissues under a microscope. It was amazing to observe both cancer and healthy cells, to distinguish cell organelles and to see the changes after a cancerous transformation. I felt like Alice in Wonderland of Cells.
My first working place in KI
However, after two years of work and a half-time seminar, I came to my second “switch”: I had to change the research group and the project. My scientific focus moved to novel treatments in pediatric leukemia. In more details, I am using an RNA molecule with a specific modification to enter a specific malignant blood cell, lymphoblast, and kill it, inducing as little side effects in a sick child as possible.
Clinics and Lab: too close or too far?
The great thing about my current project is that is not only about reading articles, books, statistical analysis, and writing. The large amount of the work in a cell lab became another stair for me that I’m trying to climb, in order to be a good scientist. It is quite challenging, but also very exciting to dig deeper and integrate the knowledge of biochemistry, oncology, hematology, and molecular biology in one project.
Sometimes I also discover certain similarities between clinical work and research. In a combination of laboratory work and computer work, I found a magnificent balance that I experienced before while seeing the patients and being loaded with paperwork after the consultations.
Another observed similarity is somehow funny and is related to mycoplasma testing. During my specialist training, I worked in the gynecology ward for several months. Many of my patients were tested for sexually transmitted infections (or STD’s), including mycoplasma. As some of you might know, in a laboratory setting, mycoplasma infection alters the growth of cells and might severely affect the results of the experiments. Therefore, it does not matter, whether you are a medical doctor or a scientist: if you get a “positive” mycoplasma result, you definitely have to do something with that (ASAP!).
So, why should you read my blog? I have many tips on how to be happy despite many challenges and I will share them with you. I hope you will enjoy reading both about issues and highlights of the unique and unforgettable experience of the PhD journey. Because, as we know, PhD can take you anywhere – do you want to know where it will take me?
Morning hike in the Alps. Looking forward to a bright future!