Supporting the next generation of researchers: Part I
As the role of research and clinical trials becomes more prominent in the cancer sector’s Covid-19 recovery, the leading lights of research here in Sheffield will be playing their part.
The retention, training and development of the next generation will be key to our success as we move forward. We’re proud to support the hugely talented Brenda Agüero, one such individual who embodies the importance of nurturing talent.
Having originally moved to Sheffield from her home in Mexico to study a master’s degree, Brenda secured a PhD position for a project which looked at ways to improve outcomes in ovarian cancer using the drug Avastin.
Following its conclusion, Brenda then progressed to her post-doc project, and is currently working to understand how and why some soft tissue sarcoma patients can develop resistance to the drug Pazopanib.
Here, Brenda tells us more about herself, her career to date, her work and why funding from Weston Park Cancer Charity is vital to its success.
Tell us a bit about yourself – whereabouts are you from originally and what brought you to Sheffield?
My name is Brenda and I am a research associate at the University of Sheffield. I’m originally from a small town on the pacific coast in Mexico.
I have been working in Sheffield now for around five years and initially moved here to study a Master´s degree in Translational Oncology. Despite the best efforts of the British climate, I really enjoyed my first year and was consequently able to secure a PhD position and more recently have had the opportunity to continue with a post-doc position.
What has your experience been like in Sheffield to date?
Sheffield has been great to me and has been a wonderful place to work and call home for the last few years.
Coming from a small town in Mexico, I really love the quaint northern soul that Sheffield gives off. It is big enough for there to be lots to do and yet small enough that you do not feel overwhelmed or lost in the hustle and bustle.
Having the Peak District on my doorstep has been great for winding down when the stress began to creep up on me. Working at the University has been an invaluable experience for my career.
The access I’ve had to world-class facilities, as well as the support of my research team and Weston Park Cancer Centre has been fundamental in allowing me to achieve the research goals I set out many years ago.
Tell us a bit about your career to date and what inspired you to take up the career that you did?
My scientific career first started in Biotechnology where my interests were fairly broad. I knew I wanted to work in human health in some way but was unsure exactly where.
It was not really until we experienced a succession of cancer diagnoses within my close family that I realised that my future lay in cancer research. The shock of seeing first-hand the terrible destruction that cancer leaves in its wake sparked something in me and made me believe that I needed to contribute anything I could to help defeat this disease and prevent any more families from suffering at its hands.
We love to hear about the retention of talent here in Sheffield – what made you decide to continue working here?
What I have seen is that young researchers, including interns and undergraduates, are trained to an exceptional level and their talent is nurtured well.
They are allowed to grow as scientists and have the opportunity to stay and progress in their careers. As previously mentioned, the access to world-class facilities and resources were a huge attraction to coming and working in Sheffield.
It is however the charm of both the city and the people of Sheffield that have been really important in making me feel welcome and a part of the community and ultimately leading me to decide to stay here for a while longer.
What do you think makes Sheffield so good at retaining and nurturing talent?
The great thing about Sheffield as a research institution is that we have several major hospitals right on our doorstep. When you combine the world-class facilities within the university, and the access to clinical staff, patients and samples from close by you are quickly able to collaborate and advance research goals.
Additionally, its location in relation to other large cities really ensures that collaborations can happen smoothly and this makes it that much easier to attract people from all over the UK and beyond.
How important is it that projects such as yours continue to receive funding from organisations such as Weston Park Cancer Charity?
Simply put, I would not have been able to develop these projects were it not for the help and funding of the Weston Park Cancer Charity.
Research ideas can only ever remain ideas unless there is someone willing to contribute the funding needed to support and translate them into a viable project capable of having applications in clinical settings.
I am grateful for this help and hope that I have and will continue to put the funding to good use and use it to bring about positive changes to patients and their families.
If you have a question about Brenda’s story, or would like to support our commitment to enabling work like Brenda’s simply give us a call on 0114 553 3330 or email [email protected].