Image of Sarah Fothergill Can you tell us about yourself?

Hi, I’m Sarah! I originally joined Imperial, as an MSc student having completed my BSc in Physics at UCL. I am originally from North Yorkshire, so London life was a huge change. London has been a great place to study, and a lot of my free time is spent exploring the city. Outside of research I enjoy art, particularly painting as well as cooking and outdoor activities.

Can you provide a summary of your research?

My research looks at ways that we can improve the sensitivity of fluorescence biosensing for early stage diagnosis. I am primarily working on pancreatic cancer diagnosis- but the technology is widely applicable to other diseases. We apply principles from physics, to develop nanomaterials that complement current diagnostic methods. Although I am primarily a physicist, my research allows me to be interdisciplinary- our technology is designed for clinical use, so a knowledge of biology is also vital. I really enjoy this, as I get to interact with a range of people from clinicians to engineers!

Why did you choose to study at Imperial and how has your experience been so far? 

It was ultimately project interest that made me stay at Imperial for PhD. However, there are many other aspects I like. If you are interested in Enterprise and Industry like I am, Imperial can provide a supportive platform to develop your ideas. There are many Start Up’s that develop here.  I would advise prospective students to join Imperial Hackspace and take advantage of the resources provided by both the Enterprise Lab and Graduate School. If like me, you are into art, get involved with the Blythe Art Studios too!

What is the current highlight of your PhD?

There are many. I have been fortunate to travel a lot with my work, both for conferences and collaboration, and made connections with researchers across the globe. Last year, I took part in the Imperial Global Fellows program and got to spend a month at a research institute in Munich. Definitely recommend! Outside my research I am also interested in policy and science communication- I recently got to present my work in Parliament!  Then there is obviously the social side (we are good at organising departmental PhD parties). Of course, a PhD can be a lot of work, but it also has to be enjoyable. 

What are your top tips for completing a PhD at Imperial?

Get to know your supervisor. If you can, drop them a message, have a one to one chat. Do your research about the topic, and make sure it has something you are truly interested in.  Also pace yourself! It can be very tempting to treat PhD as an exam that you need to study for. A PhD is not like undergraduate studies, and it is essential to have a work life balance. And do not be afraid to network- research is all about collaboration.