Meet Dr Lorena Zuliani Alvarez
Postdoctoral Researcher, University College London
Please can you tell us about your career to date?
I started my BSc in Biology in Venezuela, where I am originally from, and did my final year in Spain at the University of Zaragoza. During this year, I specialised in molecular biology and microbiology. After my BSc, I did an MSc in Biomedical Sciences in the UK at King’s College London. My MSc project was on neuropathic pain and during that time I realised how the immune system plays a pivotal role in different pathologies. For that reason, I did a DPhil at the Kennedy Institute in Dr Kim Midwood’s lab, where I studied how the innate immune response can be activated not only by pathogenic stimuli but also by endogenous proteins. After my DPhil, I joined Dr Greg Towers’ lab at University College London as a postdoctoral researcher. My work now focuses on host-pathogens interactions, where I investigate the activation of the innate immune response by retroviruses, and how this contributes to their pandemic potential.
What was it that attracted you to the Kennedy Institute?
The Kennedy Institute is renowned for the discovery of the anti-TNF therapy for rheumatoid arthritis, which revolutionised the way we use biological therapy today. I was drawn to the excellent science and multidisciplinary research that was performed in the Institute. The research groups are very diverse, which allows you to be in contact with the latest advances in different areas of immunology. In addition, all groups have a strong translational approach to research, and the Institute has access to patient samples via a number of collaborations with different centres and hospitals in Oxford. I thought this was an excellent platform to do a DPhil, as having all these resources profoundly enhanced my development as a scientist and to make my work more relevant.
How did your time at the Kennedy Institute help shape your current career path?
As I decided to continue in academia as a postdoc, my time at the Kennedy Institute as a DPhil student was immensely helpful to my career path. Not only did I develop many technical skills that I use everyday, but I also learned how to formulate and test hypothesis, present my data and collaborate with others in different projects. The internal and external seminars in the Institute and the high quality of research broadened my knowledge and research interests. During my DPhil, I was part of different publications and I published my thesis results, which then help me to find my next position in academia.
What is your advice to students considering a DPhil at the Kennedy Institute?
Anybody that is interested in doing impactful research in immunology should consider doing a DPhil at the Kennedy Institute. My advice is to prepare well for the interview and show your enthusiasm about the research topic. For students embarking on a DPhil at the Institute, I recommend to enjoy the many opportunities that the Institute and University have to offer, to step out of your comfort zone while doing your research project and unleash your curiosity, that’s what science is all about.