Nicola Beer

Graduate Research Prize Winners 2011

Nicola-Beer---NDM-Award-biography-photoFor as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in science. One of my earliest memories involves watching my primary school teacher demonstrate the concept of sound waves using a portable speaker and a paper plate filled with rice. I remember this demonstration filling my head with questions, and an ambition to learn more. This is something that I have continued to carry with me throughout my scientific career.

My first taste of 'real' laboratory science came at the grand old age of 17, where, as an A-level student, I embarked upon a Nuffield-funded research placement within the laboratory of Prof Neil Williams (Department of Pathology and Microbiology, University of Bristol). This work involved the study of the 'mucosal immune response to Neisseria Meningitidis Serogroup B', and confirmed that my real passion was using science to further our understanding of human disease. I then continued my undergraduate training at the University of Bristol, studying for a BSc Hons degree in Biochemistry. During this time I also spent a year working for the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca within their Cardiovascular and Gastrointestinal drug discovery department, which not only did I enjoy immensely, but also gave me my first insight into the world of diabetes and metabolic disease.

Upon completion of my degree I travelled around Europe before commencing my DPhil within the laboratories of Dr Anna Gloyn and Prof Patrik Rorsman at the Oxford Centre for Diabetes Endocrinology and Metabolism, University of Oxford. My DPhil work focused on furthering our understanding of the key glycolytic enzyme glucokinase, one of the most important regulators of blood glucose levels, and a well-established type 2 diabetes drug target. As well as two first author publications, this work enabled me to undertake a secondment to the laboratory of Prof Francis Collins at the National Institutes of Health, Maryland, USA.

The training I received as a post-graduate student within the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine was exceptional, and gave me the best possible start in my scientific career. As I continue with my research as a Fulbright-Diabetes UK Post-Doctoral Fellow within the laboratory of Prof David Altshuler at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Boston, USA, I look back fondly upon my time in Oxford. I also work hard to maintain collaborative links with NDM, which is an outstanding department conducting world-class scientific research.

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