Meet student Milan Fowkes
What year are you and what is your PhD on?
I have been working at the Kennedy Institute as a research assistant over the last one and a half years and have just started my DPhil under the supervision of Dr. Ngee Han Lim. My research project focuses on imaging catabolic and anabolic processes for osteoarthritis prognosis.
What is your background? And what brought you to a DPhil at NDORMS, Oxford?
I am a chemist. I completed my undergraduate master's degree (MChem) at Warwick University in 2011, with a final year project looking at radical cyclisations of acetamides. Following on from this, I did a two-year MSc in Chemistry at Western University in Canada. This focused on designing peptidomimetic ghrelin-receptor agonists as imaging agents for prostate cancer. During my time at Western I developed a strong interest in the field of molecular imaging and as a result of this I started working as a research assistant in the Lim Lab last year. I synthesized a number of radiopaque peptides aimed at imaging cartilage degradation in osteoarthritis by targeting type II collagen. I then applied for a DPhil under Dr. Lim as I wanted to add knowledge of molecular biology techniques to my current research expertise in synthetic chemistry.
What is it like to be a DPhil student at NDORMS?
It's great. There are a lot of opportunities here. The Medical Sciences Division runs a number of different training programs that you can attend during your time here if you want to improve various skills such as writing or teaching. People are also very friendly and welcoming. If you have a problem or need some advice, there are plenty of people to talk to. I especially like our lab, as we're a mix of a biochemistry, engineering and chemistry expertise which is fantastic for learning about other fields and throwing ideas around.
What is it like to be a DPhil student at Oxford?
Fun! There are societies and clubs for everyone here. I am currently the social secretary of the floorball club, it's a good complement to my study and gives me a chance to socialise outside of the lab environment. Getting involved in your college is also worth doing as they run a number of events (especially during Fresher's Week) where you'll get to meet people from a diverse range of backgrounds. The city is also very beautiful and you can easily get lost in all the things on display in the museums here.
Advice for prospective students
Don't be afraid to move out of your comfort zone! If you don't have experience or knowledge in the area that you want to work in don't let that put you off applying. Five years ago, I started out convinced I was going to be synthetic organic chemist. A year later I moved into peptide synthesis/molecular imaging, something I had never done before. Now I'm doing molecular biology! If someone would have told me this even two years ago, I would not have believed them.