Dr Alvin Lee
Academic Foundation Programme (2015)
Pathway to an AFP position
I became interested in research during my pre-clinical training in Cambridge. During my intercalated year, I conducted a two-term research project exploring how differential allelic expression of cancer susceptibility genes affects breast cancer survival.
Spurred on by this, I next went on to complete the University College London MB PhD integrated programme. I was awarded a Cancer Research UK studentship to complete my PhD under Prof Charles Swanton, investigating the role of chromosomal instability in cancer cell survival and evolution.
I find research enjoyable and stimulating and decided to apply for the AFP programme at Oxford.
What does the work involve?
I completed Foundation Year 1 at Wexham Park Hospital, rotating through general psychiatry (with academic day release), general surgery and acute medicine.
I was based in Oxford for Foundation Year 2 and had a four-month dedicated academic rotation, followed by geriatric medicine and intensive care medicine.
For my academic rotation, I was based at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Physiology, working under the supervision of Prof Mole and Prof Ratcliffe. I applied for, and was awarded, a bursary by Cancer Research UK to complete my academic foundation project.
My project involved researching the contribution of epigenetic mutations to the initiation and evolution of renal cancer. This work tied in with other work in the laboratory investigating the hypoxia pathway which is commonly deregulated in cancer. There I had the opportunity to acquire new research skills, including using the CRISPR technique to create knockout cell lines.
The four-month academic rotation allows the opportunity to gain more research experience in a new field, whilst not taking away too much clinical training time from the two-year foundation programme. However, in an AFP post there is decreased clinical time available to achieve foundation competencies. It can also be difficult to achieve significant amounts of progress during the short academic rotation, especially in a laboratory-based project.
I chose Oxford due to its excellent reputation in research, clinical training and teaching. Oxford also offered the freedom for me to choose my own AFP project and supervisor, which is not an opportunity offered by all foundation schools.
I was really happy to be able to join a world-renowned research group and be able to direct my research within the group whilst being given excellent supervision. There are also many opportunities to learn from seminars and skill courses, not only within the department and OUCAGS, but also around the University as a whole.
The AFP strengthened my resolve to pursue a clinical academic career and has enabled me to improve my skill set.