We Are Randox | Christopher McNally climbs the career leader from Placement to PhD
The name Christopher McNally may be one that you already recognise. In 2016 he earned 1st place in the Science category of the Randox Pinnacle Placement Awards, having caught the attention of Senior Management for his pioneering work developing a new diagnostic for pancreatic cancer.
Fast-forward two years and Christopher is now back at Randox as a PhD student, conducting research in prostate cancer as part of the recently-announced Randox-Ulster University PhD Academy.
We sat down with Chris to hear all about his revolutionary prostate cancer project, what motivated him to sign up to our PhD Academy and what it’s like to be back in the place where his scientific career began.
Here’s Chris’ story.
I came into Randox when I was just 19 years old for my third year at university as part of the company’s year-long placement programme. It was a great way to truly experience a working laboratory outside of the classroom and really cemented my desire to work in biomedical science.
I was lucky enough to be placed in the company’s Donegal branch, Randox Teoranta, which is close to where I grew up in Gartan, and offered me the opportunity to carry out ground-breaking medical research surrounded by my home of Donegal.
I would highly recommend the opportunity to perform an industrial placement to anyone. It helps you to prepare for what comes after university, develops your skills in the area in which you are interested, and refines your laboratory techniques. I was delighted to hear I won in the Science Category of the Randox Pinnacle Placement Awards during my time there as well, and this really inspired a confidence in me that I had become a talented scientist even before I graduated.
When I completed my fourth year of studies at Ulster University, I graduated with a degree in Biomedical Science and Professional Practice, and returned to work for Randox. The traits and qualities I learned during my placement had subsequently brought me to post-graduate employment, and I was thrilled. I was lucky enough to be able to walk straight back into the lab knowing exactly what to do and how to do it.
Despite becoming employed within Randox straight out of university however, I had this feeling that I was not finished with regards to academic study. I knew I wanted to do more, to perform more research. So, when I heard about the Randox-Ulster University PhD Academy I really was intrigued. It was the perfect platform to further my studies and be able to give more to the scientific community.
When choosing the area of research for my PhD I was keen to hear more about a collaborative prostate cancer project led by two of Northern Ireland’s leading cancer researchers Dr Mark Ruddock (Randox) and Dr Declan McKenna (Ulster University). From my time at university and my time spent at Randox, I thought I could bring my experience and knowledge in cancer research into this project, so I thought, let’s go for it.
Ultimately, the project involves looking at prostate cancer patients as well as patients who have other non-serious prostate conditions, and recognising any potential differences in the two. We can then develop a clinical diagnostic test that can identify the men at the highest risk of prostate cancer and stratify the patients accordingly.
The earlier we can do this, the quicker a patient can be treated, or not treated as the case may be. Overdiagnosis is a significant problem in prostate cancer care and many men, who do not have prostate cancer, but present with prostate cancer-like symptoms, unfortunately go through invasive, uncomfortable and most importantly, unnecessary procedures.
This work therefore has real potential to improve the management of prostate cancer, which is currently the most common cancer in males within the UK. It’s a very rewarding field to be working in and I thoroughly enjoy the work I’m doing knowing that it will have a real-life impact on many men. I’m very proud to be able to say that my PhD research will really make a difference and I now know for certain that I will continue working in cancer research after my project is complete.
Knowing that I’m helping to improve the quality of patient’s lives brings a great deal of satisfaction that few jobs can replicate and I’m excited to see what the next three years will bring.
We’re very proud of Christopher and the amazing work he is doing in prostate cancer research, and are delighted that he has made the decision to join the Randox-Ulster University PhD Academy.
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To find out more about the Randox-Ulster University PhD Academy, please email email@example.com
Randox Laboratories and Ulster University have launched a £5 million skills development initiative to support up to 10 individuals annually through PhD level study in the Life Sciences sector.
The Randox-Ulster University-Industrial PhD Academy, which aims to encourage the development of advanced, higher level skills in key industry sectors, will further reinforce Ulster University’s position as one of the top universities for biomedical related research impact and, enhance Randox’s competitiveness in the growing global healthcare sector.
Up to ten PhD researchers will be supported annually, including Randox employees and individuals from the wider sector, who are working on a range of scientific projects, with the ultimate goal of new product development. They will have the opportunity to work on new research projects, driven by industry and jointly supervised by Ulster University and Randox, to enhance their own individual skill sets whilst delivering groundbreaking advances in the life sciences sector. Ulster University and Randox will each fully fund up to five PhD researchers annually.
To date PhD researchers enrolled in this new programme of Industrial Research have started exciting projects in areas of medicine including mental health, diabetes and cancer, with more projects being developed. All projects share the common goal of delivering new diagnostic approaches for early detection of disease and earlier intervention where possible.
Professor Alastair Adair Deputy Vice-Chancellor Ulster University said:
“Ulster University is renowned globally for research in personalised medicine, cancer, diabetes and mental health and this makes us the perfect fit for a global industry leader like Randox. Ulster University and Randox have a longstanding partnership built around research, knowledge sharing and collaboration which has placed both organisations at the forefront of diagnostics and health research globally.”
Ulster University Professor of Personalised Medicine Tara Moore, said:
“The life sciences sector is of critical importance to our economy and health. To truly maximise our contribution to the economy and to fully exploit new advances in science and technology we must focus on advancing the skills of our workforce, ensuring the most talented people reach their full potential by working with partners to tackle new challenges and drive new discoveries. A strong and growing life sciences sector ensures patients will continue to benefit from new technologies which will help to improve diagnosis getting them the treatment they need quickly.”
“This new Industrial PhD Academy is a further step forward in our commitment to respond to national priorities such as the Industrial Strategy, aligning the research community with industry to drive innovation, building on the world-leading reputation of Randox and supporting a new generation of researchers in this strategically important sector.”
Dr Peter FitzGerald, Managing Director of Randox Laboratories, said;
“At this time of rapid and significant change in the UK, it is critical that the next-generation can meet industry’s ever-changing demands. The current STEM skills shortage costs the economy £1.5bn/year and will only be resolved if all companies in the sector recognise they have a role to play now too.
“In the last 4 months, we have made significant investments within Northern Ireland, in both R&D infrastructure and now in helping aspirational scientists at Ulster University to develop the critical skills to make a positive difference to patient healthcare around the world. We are unapologetically ambitious in our determination to cement Northern Ireland’s reputation as a global hub for life sciences and our own position as a worldwide leader.”
For further information about the Randox UU PhD Academy please contact Randox PR by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 028 9442 2413