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Linda van B

Linda van Bijsterveldt is a DPhil student in Tim Humphrey’s lab.

In this interview, Linda outlines her research, talks about the reasons for her interest in cancer, and shares her amazing achievement of being a part of the crew in The Women’s Boat Race.

What is the focus of your research?

I am interested in the role of a particular miRNA (a short, non-coding endogenous RNA, that silences gene functions by targeting mRNAs through degradation or translation repression) in breast cancer pathogenesis and treatment response. Together with clinicians, bioinformaticians, and geneticists, I am trying to further understand the biological processes subjected to the differential expression of this miRNA, such as cell cycle regulation and transcription.

Why does your research matter?

miRNAs can be detected in both plasma and in serum, thus showing promise as diagnostic biomarkers. The deregulation of a single miRNA has shown to be sufficient for the neoplastic transformation of cells and targeting miRNAs will therefore be a novel and promising strategy in anti-cancer therapy.

What made you choose this career path?

I think that my wish to make myself beneficial to society has always driven my choices, but my particular interest in cancer research stems from a perhaps more surprising desire – that to expand my ability to think deeply and understand complex matter. Cancer is perhaps one of the most pressing and important challenges of our era, but in my opinion, also one of the most fascinating.

When we hit one part of the biochemical network with a drug, the network responds. It is like if one particular road is blocked, all the car drivers can just take a different road to get to their destination. Cancer cells can operate in this same way, allowing them to escape the effects of targeted drugs.

I immensely value the support of those that constantly endure my headstrong, crazy and seemingly impossible ideas and future plans, and particulate those that always boost my morale with encouragement.

You were recently on the crew for the Oxford University Women's Boat Club in The Boat Race, what an amazing achievement. Tell us about the experience...

Outside of the Olympic Games, the Boat Race is perhaps the most high-profile rowing event in the calendar, with a few hundred thousand spectators lining the banks of the Thames and at least another 7 million people tuning into the Women's Race on the television. Even though it was painful to end our race on a loss, I feel incredibly lucky and excited I was selected to represent the Oxford University Women's Boat Club, only a few weeks ago now. Almost two centuries of races between Oxford and Cambridge students have built up a weight of history and tradition and I think that really adds a thrill of mystique and pride to the event.

Juggling a DPhil, training for The Boat Race, and managing everyday life; how do you find the right balance?

It is a privilege to study at a University, and to work with a supervisor, who promote a work-hard, play-hard approach. Combining two (almost) full-time occupations (rowing and a DPhil) is challenging enough in itself, so my sleep and social life had to be compromised at times. Challenges keep life exciting, though – and it is great to feel productive and energetic!