Guest Blog by Dr Claire Walker: My top three reasons for picking Immunology

Whilst Girlymicro is away, trying to desperately find some of this work life balance people keep talking about, the charming and wonderful Claire has stepped into the breach to keep you informed and amused. Isn’t she lovely!?

Blog By Dr Claire Walker

Paid-up member of the Dream Team since 2013 (as discussed in a previous post, in her personal life most people call Girlymicro Dream), token immunologist and occasional defector from the Immunology Mafia. Registered Clinical Scientist in Immunology with a background in genetics (PhD), microbiology and immunology (MSc), biological sciences (mBiolSci) and indecisiveness (everything else). Now a Senior Lecturer in Immunology at University of Lincoln.

Followers of this blog will have seen the wonderful Dream and Kip performing stand-up comedy and encountered the light-hearted hashtag #immunologysucks, typical microbiologist thinking! As the Dream Team’s token immunologist, I feel there has to be some defence of my chosen specialism. So here I weigh in on why I chose immunology, and why you might like to consider it too.

My Top Three Reasons for picking Immunology – the King of Science

  1. It’s New, New things are Cool.

Immunology is the new kid on the block of pathology disciplines. Throughout my career, I’ve been able to collaborate with all sorts of people. From geneticists and genetic counsellors during my PhD looking for new immunological diseases, to major clinical cancer trials companies and gene therapy scientists during my sojourn at a major children’s hospital, and even with the occasional microbiologist who wants some obscure cytokine readout for a study (I’m looking at you Dream!). Everyone loves collaborating with immunologists because we get the really good machines, and we aren’t afraid to use them.

2. It’s an Adventure, Adventures are Exciting.

If you’re interested in reading a science blog, you’ll have a fairly clear idea that the immune system are the cells of the body that protect us from disease. Immunologists develop our knowledge of how this works. But think about it for a moment. It is a hugely complex system that needs to understand what to kill, and when, and when to turn itself off. Humans need to be able to eat food without attacking it, and leave friendly bacteria and our own cells well alone. When the immune system falls out of balance the immunologist needs to understand how, why and what we can do to treat people. As the wonderful Dr Daniel Davis describes it, building our understanding of the immune system as ‘a painstaking, game changing scientific adventure’.

3. We’re the Future, and the Future is Awesome.

Antibiotics are in trouble. Cancer isn’t always treatable. Viral disease can shut down the whole of society. Scientists are turning to clinical immunologists for the answer. We can create artificial antibodies to treat previously untreatable diseases, we can re-program the immune system to attack and kill cancerous cells and vaccines can be rapidly produced to save millions of lives. Manipulating the immune system to treat and prevent disease not only saves lives of patients today, but has revolutionised how we approach problems in medicine.

The Bottom Line

There are so many fascinating specialisms within the world of pathology that making a decision early in your career can feel overwhelming. Immunology has just got so much to offer – who wouldn’t want a piece of that action?

TLDR. #Immunologyrocks

All opinions in this blog are my own

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