On the countdown to SfE BES 2017 we interviewed Dr Rowan Hardy (left) and Dr Louise Hunter (middle right), both members of the Early Career Steering Group. Dr Hardy is an Arthritis Research UK Career Development Fellow at the University of Birmingham, and his research focuses on the role of steroid metabolism in chronic inflammatory disease. Dr Hunter, MRC Clinical Research Training Fellow at the University of Manchester, specialises on the interaction between the body clock and the action of stress hormones.
In this interview, Rowan and Louise tell us about their careers in endocrinology and reveal their upcoming highlights for this year’s SfE BES conference in Harrogate, 6-8 November.
Q: Would you tell us a bit more about your career so far? How did you become interested in endocrinology?
Rowan: Since my degree I have always had a passion for endocrinology and immunology. In my first post-doctoral position I developed collaborations between leading endocrinologists and rheumatologists at the University of Birmingham. Through these connections I got to combine my interests by studying the role of glucocorticoid metabolism in tissue biopsies from patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Louise: I’ve been interested in stress hormone biology for over ten years, since doing an intercalated BSc in Pharmacology whilst at medical school. Choosing endocrinology as my clinical career was the natural way forward.
Q: How are you getting involved with SfE BES 2017?
R: At this year’s conference I will be contributing to the public engagement event, where I will be speed-networking with local teenagers to promote science and a career in endocrinology. I will also be presenting my research as an oral communication in the Bone, Calcium and Neoplasia session, as well as supporting my PhD student who is also delivering her first presentation at SfE BES.
L: At SfE BES 2017 I will be speaking about clinical academic opportunities in endocrinology, and chairing the Early Career symposium on alternative career pathways for endocrine scientists and clinicians, as well as another session on endocrinology and behaviour.
Q: What brings you to SfE BES 2017? Any particular sessions you are looking forward to?
R: I have attended this event regularly since 2006, when I began my PhD. In all that time, whilst I immensely enjoyed the science, the social and networking opportunities at the conference are always fantastic. I am really interested in how altered steroid metabolism contributes to inflammatory bone loss, and therefore sessions featuring eminent speakers, such as Jan Tuckermann and Eugene McCloskey, on the actions of glucocorticoid on bone, are of particular interest to me. I would strongly recommend everyone to attend the plenary sessions – these are great opportunities to see the progression of truly innovative research within endocrinology.
L: This is my fifth time at SfE BES, and I would say my favourite elements are the opportunities to be exposed to a great mix of cutting-edge science and clinical talk. I’m especially looking forward to Marian Joëls’ plenary talk on the action of corticosteroids in the brain. As a clinical trainee, I find the ‘How do I…’ sessions particularly useful – they are practical and focus on questions which crop up in routine endocrine practice, rather than rare conditions that trainees may not often encounter. For example, Andrew Toogood’s session back in 2015, on managing men who take anabolic steroids, included useful tips which I’ve found helpful in my practice.
Q: What are your future plans for your work and career?
R: I wish to combine the expertise I have developed in murine models and working with patient biopsies to develop novel therapeutic approaches for preventing complications, such as muscle wasting and systemic bone loss in chronic inflammatory disease. Within the next three years I intend to apply for a Senior Fellowship.
L: In the long-term, I’m aiming to become a clinician scientist, and I’d like my work to combine nuclear hormone research with clinical endocrinology.
Q: Who do you most admire professionally, and why?
R: I most admire Professor Georg Schett. He is a world-leading rheumatologist, investigating the pathogenesis of cartilage and bone destruction in inflammatory diseases that have shaped much of the field I currently work in.
L: For my intercalated BSc project, I had the opportunity to go to the Netherlands, and spend time with Ron de Kloet’s group in Leiden. My supervisor there, Menno Kruk, was an inspiration. He’d devoted his career to understanding the neurobiology of aggression, and his passion for the field was infectious.
Q: What do you think will be the next major breakthrough in your field?
R: Understanding how local pre-receptor steroid metabolism contributes to the dysregulation of adaptive immunity and chronic inflammatory disease.
L: In circadian biology, there’s enormous potential for the application of recent research findings to clinical practice. The idea that we could use drugs, vaccines, and other interventions more intelligently, simply by administering them at the right time of day, is very exciting.
Q: Any words of wisdom fot those starting out in your field?
R: Attend SfE BES, take an interest in any of the talks taking place at the conference, and when a speaker really inspires you, take the time to speak with them after their session.
L: Don’t be afraid to approach people and ask for help or advice, even if they hold eminent positions and you’ve never met them before! I’ve found that if you’re keen and have ambition, most people are only too pleased to help.
Both Dr Hardy and Dr Hunter will be presenting at SfE BES 2017, 6-8 November, in Harrogate. Dr Hardy’s talk ‘Glucocorticoids activation by 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 protects against inflammatory bone loss in a murine model of chronic inflammation’ will take place on Wednesday 8 November, 16.15-16.45. Dr Hunter’s ‘Clinical academic opportunities in Endocrinology’ will be on Monday 6 November, 12.45-13.00.