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I’m Dean, a 2nd year PhD student at the Centre for Experimental Medicine in Queens University Belfast. My project is to investigate whether some infants are genetically predisposed to developing severe disease following infection with  respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). On days when I manage to escape from the lab, I spend my time gaming, cooking and trying to get better at photography.

The idea of doing a PhD only occurred to me at the last moment. For most of my life I wanted to be a doctor in a hospital somewhere. This was because in school, if you’re interested in science and want to help people, the main response you’ll get is “Oh, you should study medicine and be a doctor”.

So how did I end up in a laboratory and not a hospital?

Well, I didn’t quite get the grades to study medicine, so my back-up plan was a degree in Biochemistry and then to sneak into medicine after graduating. This did not happen.

During the final year of my undergraduate degree I undertook a research project in a lab working on RSV. This was the most challenging experience of my entire education. From here the switch to PhD felt natural. I could not believe I’d been given the opportunity not only to continue my research, but to get paid for it as well.

My PhD has been a great experience so far. I particularly enjoy giving presentations (the bigger the crowd, the better), teaching undergraduate students, public outreach, and using new technology to bring everyday lab activities into the 21st century. Looking back, I feel I’ve developed more during my 3 years in the lab than I had during my entire educational history.