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Kate Watkins

1st year student on the MRC DTP in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research

In 2012 I started my undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Bath. The modules I chose throughout my degree reflected my interests in cell biology and microbiology. My course included a professional placement so year 3 of my undergrad was spent working in industry. I secured a place at GSK's largest research site in Stevenage working as a clinical scientist in the Respiratory department. It was a fantastic year in which I spent equal amounts of time in the lab and the office researching biomarkers for the diagnosis and prognosis of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). I was fortunate enough to work on various fibrosis biomarker discovery studies that included transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics. My main lab based project at GSK centered on the dysregulation of macrophages in respiratory fibrotic disease. I was able to provide relevant data to help verify metabolic signatures present in extreme macrophage phenotypes. The major things I took away from my year at GSK were the importance of networking, strategic awareness and how to plan and conduct my own experiments. It was also during this year that I decided a PhD would be the next step for me after graduation.

My final year was tough but rewarding and I spent a semester in a microbiology lab supervised by Professor Edward Feil. My research involved investigating the bacterial species found in cosmetics and the presence of staphylococcus small colony variants using both laboratory and computational techniques.

In terms of a PhD I was looking for a programme that would put me outside of my comfort zone so I could build on the skills I feel I’m lacking. The MRC DTP masters year has certainly lived up to its title (interdisciplinary) and my expectations, helping me to improve my statistics, coding and physics knowledge as well as experimental biology techniques. The best and most important thing about this course and the MRC program at Warwick in general is the team feeling and support system. I have made some very close friends and we’re always having a great time even when things are tough! Chalk talks are a particular highlight for me as we all get together to hear about the PhDs that MRC students are working on in a very relaxed and social environment.

I am undertaking a mini project at the moment with Meera Unnikrishnan (Warwick Medical School) working on intracellular staphylococcus type VII secretion system effector proteins and their impact on immune cells. I have recently completed a mini project with Marco Polin (Physics) designing and making a microfluidic device that can be used to create a lung infection model. My PhD will hopefully join the two mini projects together so I can study chronic intracellular staph infections in immune cells in an in vitro lung like setting.

Overall I’m having a fantastic time and I can’t wait to get stuck in to my projects.

MRD DTP in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research

How to apply

MSc course

Overview of Kate's MSc Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research Year
Term 1 
Taught modules

CH920 Cellular Systems and Biomolecules I

BS930 Cellular Systems and Biomolecules II

CH922 Microscopy and Imaging

CH923 Statistics for Data Analysis

LF903 Quantitative Skills for System Biology

Term 2
Taught modules

CH926 Molecular Modelling

MD978 Research Topics in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research

MD991 Physical Biology of the Cell

Across the academic year

Portfolio CH948 Warwick Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research
Term 3
Research project 1 MD979 Development of a lung microfluidic circuit (supervisor: Dr Marco Polin, Physics)
Summer vacation
Research project 2 MD980 Host cell manipulation by the S. aureus type VII secretion system (supervisor: Dr Meera Unnikrishnan, WMS)




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