Stephen Ducray

My very first scientific conference: ERIA 7th Annual Meeting in Vienna

I have had a fascination with Science since an early age, an interest which was spurred by studying Biochemistry in University.

The prospect of undertaking a PhD is captivating, exhilarating and stressful in itself. Nonetheless I have chosen to exacerbate these challenges by studying abroad. Although the thought of going to a foreign country is daunting – a foreign culture, an unaccustomed city and not a single familiar face within several hundreds of miles – I feel it is above all a brilliant opportunity – many new experiences, lots of new places to explore and so many new people to meet and befriend.

This is where ALKATRAS, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN), stands head and shoulders above comparable PhD studentships. Through this training programme I am part of an interesting crowd of PhD students, or Early Stage Researchers as the EU refers to us, from across the globe; from Taiwan to Mexico, from India to Poland. Not only have I moved to England and been treated to the plethora of Cambridge’s unique quirks, in my first 6 months with the project I have already enjoyed a workshop-conference in both Vienna and Brno. And there are many more exciting training opportunities all over Europe still to come before my PhD will be completed.

Our first meeting in Vienna included a professional workshop, in which we covered the theme of epigenetics, and the ERIA Annual Conference. While several of my ALKATRAS peers have been to conferences before, these were my first experiences of scientific meetings. I found the conference stimulating and enlightening, all the more so because epigenetics is the backbone of my project. I valued the chance to learn about ‘ALK’ topics related to my research but also to learn outside the direct scope of my project – diverse research themes from different viewpoints from various international lab groups with differing opinions – entirely dissimilar from my own outlook on ‘ALK’. This was a rare opportunity for a PhD student in his first months and certainly an inspiriting experience.

I am eagerly awaiting more events such as these. Even the more seasoned of my peers highly anticipate these meetings over the next three years, where we will all get together to discuss our research. I certainly hope that at the next event I’ll have some exciting and thought provoking results to present myself.

The ALKATRAS PhD students are an international crowd forged by their interest in discussing their research. With thanks to Dr. Raymond Lai of University of Alberta for providing the photograph (September, 2016)

Stephen Ducray

About Stephen Ducray

I started my PhD in fall 2016 studying at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Pathology. I was recruited for the Innovative Training Network “Alkatras”. My project’s centred on investigating the nuclear functions of the oncogenic fusion protein, NPM-ALK in Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma.