60 seconds with Maria Chatzifrangkeskou
Maria is a postdoctoral researcher in Eric O’Neill’s lab and recently won the Departmental Early Career Researcher Prize.
As well as talking about her research interests and sharing her career path so far, Maria also discusses some of the challenges of working in science, how working in the lab is both intriguing and exhausting, and tells us what keeps her motivated.
What is the focus of your research?
My research focuses on the identification of novel roles of the tumour suppressor protein, RASSF1A, in which expression is often silenced in most cancer types. My main interest is the cell signalling mechanisms occurring at the nuclear envelope that regulate actin levels in the nucleus and gene expression.
Why do you think your research is important?
Understanding the functional role of different tumour suppressors and oncogenes, as well as the molecular mechanisms regulating fundamental cellular processes, is very important for the discovery of anticancer drugs and their perspective mechanisms of action.
Are there any challenges involved?
Working in science is a challenge on its own right. You face multiple challenges throughout your career and, on top of that, nothing is certain. You’re never sure if your experiment will work, if you’ll get the result you’re dying to obtain, or if you’ll earn the grant that will allow you to keep pursuing your dreams.
Tell us what it’s like working in the lab…
I usually have a whole day in the lab running experiments, analysing data, reading the literature and drafting scientific papers. The latter happens when we get lucky enough to publish. This is both intriguing and exhausting.
How did you get to this point in your career?
As long as I can remember, I have always wanted to become a scientist. I studied molecular biology at undergraduate level, before initially moving to the UK to enrol on the Post-Genomic MRes programme at the University of York. Following this, I completed my PhD in cell biology in labs between France and Germany, before moving back to the UK for a postdoc here at the University of Oxford.
Over these years, I have been lucky enough to work in 6 labs in different countries, where I have met brilliant scientists from all around the world and built valuable friendships. Of course, without the support of my family and friends, I wouldn’t have achieved anything.
What motivates you as a scientist?
For a scientist, every day holds the possibility of a new idea that could, one day, affect the lives of others. This is what attracted me to the career and what keeps me going. It’s a never-ending learning journey, so it never gets boring!
Do you have any advice for someone considering a postdoctoral position?
I don’t think I have a lot of experience to give others advice. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt along the years, it’s to do it with passion or not at all. It’s my passion for science that keeps me going regardless of the setbacks that are always there in this career.
Outside of work, what do you do to relax?
One of my favourite activities is running, so I often spend my weekends doing that. Oxford is a beautiful place to explore while running.