Fatemeh joined the ICR last year, moving from her home country of Iran where she completed her PhD in anti-cancer drug response at Shahid Beheshti University.
Why did you want to come to the UK?
The UK was my first choice to live and work because I wanted to be close to my friend, and I was specifically looking for jobs here at institutions whose research goal was about cancer. I found the ICR’s postdoc position and programme very suitably matched with my aims.
Migration to other countries can be quite an intricate process, but my move ended up being fairly straightforward, thanks to the support from the ICR’s recruitment team. They really helped me from the very beginning, sending me the documents that were required for applying for my visa and making sure all my requirements met the criteria, as well as correcting some of my mistakes in between!
They also provided me with some letters to include in my application. When I came to the ICR, I was then able to reimburse my visa application fee and other costs. Everything came together nicely!
How do you find working in Chelsea?
I really enjoy the multidisciplinary atmosphere here and it’s the thing that stood out when I first joined the ICR. I can talk and closely collaborate with many knowledgeable scientists from different fields – we have clinicians, oncologists, immunologists – and for me as a someone from a computer science background, it’s a great pleasure to be with specialists from all walks of life and learn from them. Currently, I am working on identifying the mechanism of resistance in breast cancer and finding new targetable genes which can enhance the drug response. I really enjoy the crosstalk between teams as the diversity and viewpoints really help to shape brilliant ideas.
People here are very helpful, especially my colleagues who are like my second family since starting my work at the ICR – they even formed a group to help me find a good flat in London! On my first day, my supervisor told me, “You are not alone. We’re all from different parts of the world here and we understand the difficulties you may face when you come to a new country, so all of us are here to help you.” It was very heart-warming, and like a real family, we help each other in many ways.
What kind of opportunities are there at the ICR?
Many different research groups are enthusiastic to collaborate and work together, not just within the organisation but across London and internationally too, some examples being King’s College London, and our partner hospital The Royal Marsden. In my team, for example, we sometimes work with other teams in the Division of Breast Cancer. For me, this was also a really great opportunity for me to build my community of collaborators with incredible scientists around the world.
As well as this, there are lots of learning opportunities at the ICR every day, including lectures, training courses, seminars and talks that I can participate in any time and glean useful knowledge from.
How do you find living in London?
I love London’s multinational nature, which I wasn’t expecting when I came here. In Iran, there are just two main nationalities and we didn’t have many different lifestyles, but now I’m regularly faced with different ideas and viewpoints and this has broadened my vision a lot. I really like that people with a range of beliefs and preferences are free to pursue them here, and there are lots of exciting experiences to try so everyone can find their favourite. And of course I love that I’m able to try the best food from many different countries!
London also has some great schemes, such as the Try Before You Bike scheme where you try a bike rented for by the Council and then pay for it in instalments, which allowed me to buy a bike at low cost in the first months I moved here. Because I have multiple options for coming into work every day, sometimes I choose to cycle through the park to enjoy the weather, or the bus for views of the city – but I can always get the tube if I’m in more of a rush!
What do you want to do in the future?
I’m still at the beginning of my postdoc journey so I’m not sure yet, but I do hope to extend my postdoc for several more years to harness my skills, ideally still at the ICR. I’ve found my comfort zone and community who I can rely on.
Before coming here, I dreamed of becoming a University Professor and after joining, I saw how beneficial it is to work in a specific cancer field at a cancer research-specific institute, where all the efforts are put into pushing the science both in the lab and clinic. It really encourages me to become a principal researcher in the future, and having the ICR in my CV opens up many doors.