PhD Perspective – Jill King

PhD Perspective – Jill King


Hi, I’m Jill King I’m a paediatric doctor with a special interest in infectious diseases and immunology and I’m currently working towards a PhD in Professor Warris’ lab at the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology at the University of Aberdeen. Well, I was working in Aberdeen as a clinician and I was keen to pursue a career as a clinical academic in paediatric infectious diseases and immunology and I got to hear about the world leading research being carried out by the Aberdeen Fungal Group and particularly the work that Professor Warris has been doing looking at invasive fungal infections in susceptible hosts and the opportunity came up to come work with the group and I really just jumped at it. My research is looking at invasive Aspergillus infections in patients with a particular type of immune deficiency called Chronic Granulomatous Disease or CGD. Aspergillus are ubiquitous environmental moulds, we all inhale thousands of spores every single day and it doesn’t cause us any problems, but for patients who have CGD, these everyday encounters can lead to invasive infection and unfortunately the treatments that we’ve got aren’t always effective and even with appropriate treatment, Aspergillus infections remain the leading cause of death in CGD. Part of my PhD is looking to see whether we can improve treatment outcomes by dampning some of the excessive inflammation we se in CGD patients when they have an Aspergillus infection, and the other aspect of my PhD is trying to understand why patients with CGD get a particular type of Aspergillus infection called Aspergillus nidulans that we don’t see in other patient groups at risk of Aspergillus infections. The setup in Aberdeen is really great, we’ve got a wealth of expertise in fungal biology and immunology, so there’s always someone to ask and always someone to help if you’re stuck on something but we also have access to a brilliant range of university Core Facilities with specialist skills in Flow Cytometry; Histology & Microscopy and in Proteomics and this has allowed me with the help of the Flow Cytometry team to really use novel cutting-edge Flow Cytometry techniques and to develop a 14-colour Flow Cytometry panel to really try and get to grips with what’s going on with the innate immune response to Aspergillus infections in the CGD lung. The MRC Centre is a really friendly collegiate place to work. It’s attracted researchers from around the world which means we’ve got a really international diverse group of researchers and I think this helps to add to the really open friendly nature of the group. There’s a lot of expertise here there’s always somebody to ask if your encounter a problem and there are also lots of visiting researchers from other research institutes which leads to lots of collaborative discussions and lots of help developing project ideas and research ideas. I like running, hill walking, water sports and skiing so Aberdeen is really well placed for me, I’ve got lots of green space, I’ve got easy access to the Cairngorms and the sea is on the doorstep as well. I’m also an avid knitter which is great for the long dark Aberdonian winter evenings. When I finish the PhD I’ll return to clinical practice to complete my training as a paediatrician. As a more long-term plan I hope to become a clinical academic in paediatric infectious diseases and immunology and my time in Aberdeen has really been invaluable in terms of trying to develop research questions; understanding research techniques; and also making contact with researchers in the field of medical mycology.

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