Demitris Nathanael | 2nd year PhD student in the Institute of Clinical Sciences, University of Birmingham

What is your current role and what does it involve?

I am a 2nd year PhD student funded by the British Heart Foundation, within the Institute of Clinical Sciences in the School of Biomedical Sciences.

There is a link between pathological hypoxia and cardiovascular dysfunction and our research is suggesting that this is mediated by the carotid bodies. My project specifically is looking at the mechanistic importance of CD73 in promoting carotid body-mediated hypertension and arrhythmia in response to chronic hypoxia. I am training in various techniques to investigate this including: electrophysiological recordings from the carotid sinus nerve, single cell calcium imaging, immunohistochemistry/immunofluorescence and in vivo measurements of cardiovascular and respiratory parameters.

A PhD is not all about experiments, it also involves data analysis, presentations, reading other research, coming up with new ideas and training other members of the group. Attending conferences around the world is also part of being a PhD student and research in general. For example, I have recently presented at the International Society of Arterial Chemoreceptors which was held in Lisbon, and so there are always opportunities to travel and present your work as well as hearing from others in the field.  

How has your Biomedical Science degree helped you in your current role?

I completed my final year research project in the lab that I am in now. The lab gave me incredible support making the whole experience enjoyable and stimulating. After the project, they wrote a PhD grant application for me to continue working with them.   

What do you love the most about your job and what is the biggest challenge?

What I love most is having the flexibility to plan my own work and time and the freedom to learn new things every day! The biggest challenge would be understanding that science is complex and experiments do not always work and may not go as expected. 

How would you sum up your time in Birmingham in three words?

Stimulating. Challenging. Supportive.

What inspired you most during your time as a student?

The cardio-respiratory lecturers within the institute of Clinical Sciences. They were always so passionate and provided the best support to their students which kept me engaged and pushed me to do my best. Not surprisingly, this made me want to do a PhD within this field with their support.

What advice would you give to people who are considering studying Biomedical Science at Birmingham?

Engage with the course! Actively asking questions and being curious will make things a lot easier to remember and understand.

What advice would you give to current Biomedical Science students who are still undecided about which career to go into?

Do what will make you happy! There is no point forcing yourself to do something that you will not enjoy. I would suggest not rushing into anything and be open to gaining new experiences. Before starting my PhD, I took a year out during my studies to work in industry and after graduating I worked as a research assistant for another year. Overall, this gave me lots of experience and confirmed that I wanted to stay in research.

Demitris Nathanael

Demitris Nathanael

 Degree: BSc Biomedical Science (2016-2020)

Current position: 2nd year PhD student in the Institute of Clinical Sciences funded by the British Heart Foundation