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Roxanna abhari 1

What year are you and what is your PhD on?

I am a full time 2nd year DPhil (PhD) student in Andy Carr's group. Part of the group works on using electrospinning as a method to develop regenerative materials for surgery. My project is focused on developing and optimising a bioactive suture for tendon repair.

What is your day-to-day like? What does your research involve?

I spend about 80% of my time in the Botnar Research Centre and 20% in the Engineering Department. A typical day starts with a coffee in the lab, after which I set up the electrospinning machine, design the day's experiment, and produce and process the bioactive suture material. I then take the material to the engineering department for imaging and mechanical/material characterisation. It's a very multidisciplinary group so I'm constantly interacting with others, seeking input about obtaining, analysing, and interpreting my results (over more coffee!).

What is your background? And what brought you to a DPhil at NDORMS, Oxford? 

I moved to Oxford from Canada last year. I did my undergraduate in biomedical sciences, during which I worked in a bioengineering lab looking at the contact mechanics in elbow implants. The lab was directly embedded in an upper limb clinic, and biomedical engineers collaborating with clinicians in a research environment made quite a productive research group. It seemed that, on their own, many basic scientists struggle to bridge the gap to clinic and many clinicians rarely do basic science research. For my DPhil, I was looking for a department that did more than pair clinicians with basic scientists, but one that also had a strong link between the lab and the clinic, where I could be educated about the various dimensions of translational research and one that fostered innovation and celebrated practicality of research. To me, NDORMS fit this criteria perfectly.

What is it like to be a DPhil student at NDORMS?

My supervisors, team and the director of graduate studies (Afsie) made me feel extremely welcome at NDORMS. The wide range expertise in the department enables a lot of flexibility in project design because there's always someone in the department you can be directed to for advice and support. Doing a DPhil at NDORMS is allowing me to build a "toolkit" of skills and techniques. For example, over the next two years, I am working with the engineering group to characterise materials, learning how to run focus groups gathering qualitative data through interviewing surgeons, and doing basic science work looking at the influence of material properties on biological properties such as cell matrix deposition. This year, I also became involved in the NDORMS student committee because I wanted to gain insight into how the department is run, and to meet other students and researchers.

What is it like to be a DPhil student at Oxford?

Oxford is unique in that there is a very active social life for graduate students. I am quite involved in my college: St Catherine's College, or "Catz". Last year, I rowed with my college team, which was great fun and a good way to meet students in different stages of their studies. The area in and around Oxford is beautiful for running and cycling so I try to get out as much as I can. I am also co-running the Catz Biomedical Society, which is a nice way to be informed of biomedical research from the undergraduate to professor level within the college. I also have a strong interest in mental health and improving mental health education in young children and teenagers, and have become involved with the charity It Gets Brighter.

Any other comments you wish you'd read from students when you were applying?

I hope I provided you with an overview of “life as an NDORMS student” - if you have any questions, feel free to contact me: roxanna.abhari@ndorms.ox.ac.uk