Clinical Research Training Fellow: Richard Parker
Dr Richard Parker
I am a clinical lecturer in hepatology in Birmingham. I work at the Centre for Liver Research at the University of Birmingham. My PhD focused on the role of chemokine receptors in liver disease. My supervisor had an existing collaboration with a biotech company in California who develop small molecule inhibitors of chemokine receptors. In addition to using their inhibitors in the laboratory in Birmingham, when we were planning my fellowship the possibility of an industrial placement was suggested. We arranged that I would travel to the US to investigate the efficacy of chemokine receptors in pre-clinical models of liver disease.
In 2013, along with my wife and four-month-old son, I relocated from Birmingham to Silicon Valley, just outside San Francisco for six months. My time spent working in a US commercial laboratory was hugely informative. I saw the whole process of drug discovery from medical chemistry through to clinical trial design. From the point of view of my research training, I learnt new skills and gained confidence and independence. The pace and rigour of work was remarkable. The six months was extremely productive, generating lots of data and an ongoing collaboration.
My Clinical Research Training Fellowship provided funding for my family to come with me. California is a beautiful place to live and it was a real treat to spend six months there. We did question the good sense of taking a very young baby to California but he seemed to take to long haul air travel quite well, in fact we subsequently took him to a conference in Hawaii without any difficulties. Work provided me with an instant social group, it was more difficult for my wife although having a young child provided a way into things like local mother and baby groups. The bay area is full of itinerant international young professionals so there were lots of families in a similar position. Being so far from home occasionally felt a bit isolated, but helped by lots of visits from family and friends who took the opportunity for a holiday!
I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work in an overseas centre. There are challenges in leaving one’s home institution. At Heathrow, surrounded by suitcases and with a very young baby, I did wonder what I’d let myself in for. However, working abroad enriched my fellowship scientifically and professionally and I would encourage all trainees to take any opportunity to include a period abroad in their fellowship.
Correct as of: March 2015