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Tell us more about your role: what do you do and how did you get to where you are now?

Dr Lianne DavisI vividly remember the first word of my personal statement on my UCAS (University Application) form: vomiting. It was hardly a promising beginning – but as I explained all those years ago, when I attended an A-level Biology conference in London and found myself on the edge of my seat listening to lectures on Nausea, Vomiting and DNA Fingerprinting, I then felt reassured that I had chosen the right career path. And I still feel it.

I am now a senior post-doctoral research assistant and I haven’t lost the enthusiasm and imagination for science. I constantly work at the bench investigating how cells communicate with one another in contexts as diverse as immunity, endocrinology and basic cell biology. It is a joy to bring multiple skills (including microscopy and genetic engineering) to bear upon a question, and these have been honed and extended over many years.

After my Biochemistry degree, I was fortunate to come to Oxford for my DPhil and I have remained here ever since because this is simply one of the best places in the international field.

In a broader context, cell-cell communication cuts across the whole of the Medical Sciences Division and we interface with other groups and departments. I collaborate with and advise colleagues across the University and beyond. It can be highly rewarding to learn from these other, related fields, and often informs us more about our own work than we anticipated!

What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?

I love having the opportunity to learn something new every single day, combined with a free rein to take the projects in the most interesting directions at the cutting edge of the field. My work provides fantastic opportunities to question, be creative, be persistent and to enjoy constant intellectual excitement.

Can you tell us about something you’ve done, contributed to that you’re most proud of?

My most recent work has potentially revealed a novel signalling pathway in macrophages (immune cells that devour debris and pathogens). We showed that acidic organelles (lysosomes) generate exquisitely local Ca2+ signals to drive phagocytosis; other Ca2+ sources will not substitute and the lysosomal Ca2+ nanodomains are so small as to be ‘invisible’ in normal Ca2+ recordings. It is a technically and intellectually challenging pathway that gave rise to new methodologies and concepts.

What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?

We are not attracting the best young candidates into science research because of the poor career/funding structure and (as a result) an increasingly toxic work environment because of increased competition for less and less funding/positions. Covid has shown that by working together we can achieve extraordinary things!

Therefore, there needs to be a radical restructuring of science research careers and funding which would, in one fell swoop, ameliorate the dog-eat-dog competitiveness that is eroding the community.

I would like to see a healthier sharing of ideas and resources to assist mankind.