A Unique Rising Scientist Day

By Alexander Carver, PhD student, Department of Infectious Disease

Hi, I’m Alex, a second year PhD student studying in Professor Xiaodong Zhang’s group. On 20th April, I was lucky enough to take part in Rising Scientist Day 2021 and win the 3-minute thesis competition. It has been a tough year for PhD students across Imperial College with the coronavirus pandemic taking a toll on what has been possible to achieve in the lab; however, it was very impressive to see what people have been working on for the last 1-2 years. The day consisted of poster viewing sessions in which all 2nd and 3rd year PhD students in the Faculty of Medicine were expected to compete. The posters were of exceptional quality, and the winners did a great job in producing posters worthy of any conference. 

In addition to poster viewing sessions, 25 PhD students were also nominated to produce a single slide summarising their research which they would present to the audience (over Zoom) in a maximum of three-minutes. Undoubtedly a big challenge, the field was full of great talks, ranging from discussion of new Hepatitis treatments in Eastern Asia to understanding the role of microbiota in immunity. My talk examined the regulation of the DNA damage response, particularly the proteins involved in Homologous Recombination, a pathway of repair essential for the maintenance of genome integrity. 

We were also treated to two talks by two recent Imperial College alumni who gave us an insight into what they achieved with their PhDs. Despite both alumni completing a PhD in the Faculty of Medicine, they both had gone into different careers that have used the skills gained during their doctoral research. The first, Zoe Seager, told us much about what it is like to be a post-doctoral researcher in academia. It was a very interesting listen, and many questions were asked about how to go about writing an excellent thesis and articles for publication, as well as how to apply for jobs in academia. The second alumnus, Sophie Ward, did not do a post-doctoral research role in academia but had instead gone into strategy at the Wellcome Trust. In particular, she played a key role in the Covid-response by the Trust. Despite the exit from academic, *name* talk demonstrated that having a PhD gives you the skills necessary to turn your hand to any job, within or without academia. 

Overall, despite the obvious effect of Covid making the Rising Scientist Day not what it could have been, it was heartening to see the quality and diverse range of research that has continued to speed ahead. I would like to thank all the other competitors in both the Poster and 3-Minute Thesis competitions, especially the winners (as listed below). 

Three-Minute Thesis: 

  1. Alex Carver 
  2. Max Larkinson
  3. Catherine Cherry 


  1. Maddalena Cerrone 
  2. Jonathan Li 
  3. Golly Mobayen 

Most fun poster: Ioanna Panagi 

I would also like to thank the organisers of the day, including Hayley Kendall-Berry and Kevin Murphy, who expertly hosted the event despite the early Zoom-related technical issues. Hopefully we’ll be back to presenting in person next year and will be able to enjoy some well-deserved nibbles and vino afterwards!