Dr Aarash Saleh
Role: PhD student and respiratory registrar for the NHS
Subject area: Gene Therapy Group, NHLI, Imperial College London
Nationality: British Iranian
I'm currently working four days a week as a respiratory registrar (doctor) in the NHS – and looking after my toddlers on the other day! – while preparing for my PhD viva exam.
GCSE (or equivalent): GCSEs in English Lit, English Lang, History, French, German, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths
A-level (or equivalent): A-levels in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, French
• MBChB with BSc hons in Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh
• MRCP (professional clinical exams)
Detail about Axel
My PhD looks at new ways we can assess the success of gene therapy treatments for Cystic Fibrosis. These new treatments look very promising, and by using new technologies to find their strengths and weaknesses in clinical trials, we stand a better chance of making them work in the real world.
I met John Hurst, an academic respiratory consultant at the Royal Free Hospital, early in my career and his enthusiasm and excitement were really amazing. I became driven to help my patients by increasing the types of treatments available rather than just using the ones that already existed.
Who is your STEM hero?
Professor Uta Griesenbach, my main PhD supervisor – she works in gene therapy and spends a lot of time organising education for new students. Somehow she manages to balance this with being a semi-professional sailor. One day I hope to be as good at my job as she is, and to inspire and nurture others.
Most significant discovery/invention?
In 1747 James Lind, a Scottish doctor, discovered that citrus fruits cure scurvy through one of the first ever medical trials, which took place aboard a ship. His work laid the foundation for preventative medicine and how we perform randomised clinical trials today.
Career options after study
For medical doctors in research, the options are to get fully into academic research; to balance practice with some protected time for research; or to go back into full-time medicine. Even doctors who don't stay in academia gain important skills, and hopefully make a positive impact with the work they have done.
I spend my free time campaigning for clear air – I see this as part of my duty as a doctor and scientist. In 2016 I joined a secret Greenpeace action and helped run a pop-up medical surgery outside the UK headquarters of Volkswagen to highlight the health impacts of their refusal to phase out diesel cars.