Dr Detina Zalli - Senior Teaching Fellow

Dr Detina Zalli is the Senior Teaching Fellow on the postgraduate programme in Genomic Medicine. She tells us about her academic background and the advice she would give applicants to the programme.

Detina Zalli

What made you apply for the role? 

I applied for the Senior Teaching Fellow position because I love teaching and Imperial College London excels in teaching.  Similarly, the MSc Genomic Medicine has great leaders including Professor Michael Lovett, who I highly admire. 

Secondly, at Imperial, there is career progression system in place which means the teaching fellows can go up the ladder. At some other institutions, they cannot progress in their career.   

Could you tell us about your academic background? 

My academic research background is in cancer cell biology, biochemistry and genetics. I carried out postdoctoral research training at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine where I studied the roles of microtubules and actin microfilaments in the osteoclast cytoskeleton, a network of protein subunits which help the cell keep its shape and move around. 

Following my postdoctoral training at Harvard, I worked as lecturer where I directed multiple courses for graduate students in cancer cell biology. I was also the director of Advanced Graduate Preclinical and Clinical Research Seminar.  I then moved to the University of Oxford where I was the academic lead for MSc in Precision Cancer Medicine. 

What inspired you to take up a career in science? 

I come from Albania, a European country on the Balkan Peninsula. When I was a little child, I experienced civil war. During those frightening nights when you could hear bullets everywhere, I used to find some hope in reading about scienceI was always inspired by thefindings of DNA made by Watson, Crick and Wilkins. 

What advice would you give to applicants applying for MSc Genomic Medicine? 

Genomic Medicine is the future of medicine in the UK and the rest of the world. The fact that the UK is leading on this is fantastic opportunity for students to learn from the brightest minds. My advice to the potential applicants is to be well prepared – do your homework and prepare for the interview – as this is an opportunity you don’t want to miss! 

Dr Charlotte Dean - Senior Lecturer

Dr Charlotte Dean is one of the module leaders on the postgraduate programme in Genomic Medicine. She tells us about her area of research and her career highlights to date.

Charlotte Dean

What is your role at NHLI?

I am a senior lecturer - my job involves teaching and research.

What is your research about?

We want to find new regenerative medicine treatments for lung diseases like emphysema, and also bronchopulmonary dysplasia where not enough alveoli form in premature babies. We identify factors that are required to generate the lungs (lung development) and then see if we can harness these same factors to repair or grow new lung tissue.

What have been the highlights of your career path so far?

I have really enjoyed each stage of my career from undergraduate through to running a lab. I did my post-doctoral work in the USA and that was really enjoyable and stimulating. 

What led you to choosing your career in this particular field?

I have always been a developmental biologist but I began my career in neuroscience. After my PhD, I decided it would be good to try something different so I worked on the lacrimal gland of the eye and this then led me to work on the lungs. I find lung biology fascinating so that is where I have focused my research.

What is your favourite part of your role at NHLI?

The variety of my job is probably the most enjoyable thing. In one day I may be teaching classes, then catching up with scientists in my group about their research projects, writing a grant and attending a research seminar - it is never boring.

What advice would you give yourself as a young person about to start your career?

Take advantage of any opportunities that come along. For example, go to a broad range of seminars, attend meetings, apply for opportunities to work abroad etc. 

What would you be doing if you weren’t in the world of academia or science?

It's hard to think of something not related to science or academia that I would want to do. Perhaps being a writer. 

What advice would you give to students considering joining NHLI?

There is a lot of really interesting research going on at NHLI and you will be taught by the academics who are doing this cutting-edge research. This is a great opportunity so make the most of it. Ask lots of questions and ask for advice, it is always good to hear from lots of different people.