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Hear from our current and past students about life at Oxford


Paul Lyon

DPhil in Surgical Sciences

Laurie Pycroft

DPhil in Surgical Sciences

Paul Lyon Laurie Pycroft

'The Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences has a well-established programme of minimally invasive surgical research, of which the High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) unit, established since 2002, has played a key role. The close collaboration of the HIFU unit with a number of world-class laboratories at Oxford has given me the unique opportunity to conduct a truly translational and multidisciplinary clinical trial involving targeted drug delivery using focused ultrasound. The laboratory and clinical research I have been involved in has been fully funded as a Surgical Theme Fellowship courtesy of the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.

Research has armed me with a diverse range of basic laboratory skills and experience in radiological techniques including HIFU and MR spectroscopy. In addition I have gained extremely valuable experience in clinical trial design and management. Following successful completion of DPhil, I plan to return to a clinical training post with further involvement in clinical trials and translatable research.

The opportunity to teach first year graduate-entry medical students on a range of topics from the core syllabus has given me valuable experience of Oxford’s college tutorial system. Oxford offers a rich and diverse research environment in the surroundings of a beautiful historic city which I would wholeheartedly recommend to prospective graduate students.'

'I’m in my fifth year here at Oxford, having previously studied Physiological Sciences at undergraduate level and obtained a master’s degree in neuroscience. I’m currently working on a full-time DPhil in Surgical Sciences in the Oxford Functional Neurosurgery group, under the supervision of Professor Tipu Aziz and Dr Sandra Boccard. My project’s focus is on furthering the understanding of pain mechanisms by studying patients undergoing neurostimulation. I’ve been fortunate enough to obtain funding from a small charity, the Norman Collisson Foundation, which has enabled me to pursue my present studies.

The driving factor behind my decision to undertake a doctorate was the opportunity to work in Professor Aziz’s lab alongside some of the world’s top functional neurosurgeons, investigating the interface between artificial electronic devices and the most complex electronic mechanism in the known universe, i.e. the human brain. Oxford is home to a great deal of world-class research such as this and I can think of no better place to explore the areas that interest me.

Oxford is also a beautiful city with an excellent standard of living and, despite moments of stress, my quality of life here has consistently been very high.'

Matt Bottomley

DPhil in Surgical Sciences

Sanaz Amin

DPhil in Surgical Sciences

Matt Bottomley Sanaz Amin (profile)

'The Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences was an obvious choice for my research degree. My research interest is in using the immune system to predict and understand the long-term complications arising from organ transplantation, which is a translational project requiring access to both clinical and scientific facilities. The NDS has a well-earned reputation in the field of transplantation and the close collaboration between the NDS and the Oxford Transplant Unit at the Churchill Hospital made studying here an attractive proposition.

The research group in which I have been working, the Transplantation Research Immunology Group (TRIG), has strong links to other transplant immunology research facilities and this enabled me to spend time with other researchers both in the UK and in Europe in order to learn new techniques. I was lucky enough to be supported by a Wellcome Trust Clinical Training Fellowship, which particularly offers additional funding to assist with collaborations and travel to other groups. The success of my project has been illustrated by the recent publication of a paper in the world’s leading nephrology journal on the research I performed in the laboratory [1], with two further manuscripts currently in preparation. 

I have submitted my thesis for examination and returned to clinical practice. However, the research programme I established is continuing and I remain closely involved with the department. During my time in the NDS I have found the department to be a close-knit one, despite being spread across a number of sites, and the staff and students to be friendly and welcoming.'

[1] “CD8+ Immunosenescence Predicts Post-Transplant Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma in High-Risk Patients”. Bottomley MJ, Harden PN, and Wood KJ. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology; published ahead of print November 12, 2015, doi:10.1681/ASN.2015030250.

Read the paper.

Matt completed his DPhil in 2016.

'I have a medical background from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. I am currently a 1st year DPhil student. When I first moved to Oxford, I had to take care of all sorts of paperwork and get familiar with so many different terms that I had never come across. This is when I came to realise how well organised and helpful the Nuffield Department of Surgical Science is. Today, not only do I get to pursue my dream career in cardiac surgery, I also get to do that under the supervision of one of the greatest researchers in the field, Professor David Taggart.

My DPhil project is on intraoperative graft imaging in cardiac surgery. I use a device, VeriQC (Medistim ASA, Oslo, Norway), to double-check the grafts prior to chest closure.  According to literature, up to 11% of failed grafts are due to technical issues during surgery, such as kinking or twisting of the graft. With this new technique we could minimize these numbers and potentially further improve cardiac surgery. Currently we have several trials going on at the same time, which in turn should all help us better understand this novel technique. By the end of my research, I am hoping to prove that this device is indeed the new gold standard technique to assess graft patency intraoperatively.

In addition to my DPhil project, I am also the coordinator of two multicentre clinical trials. One of the trials, REQUEST, is a multicentre registry study on the VeriQC where we aim to find out how often the device helps the surgeon to detect and correct an error. The other trial, VEST III, is a multicentre randomised self-controlled trial on external venous stents (Vascular Grafts Solutions, Tel Aviv, Israel). 

My decision on moving to Oxford seemed like an excellent idea at first. However, I have come to realise how much more it truly is.'

Sanaz completed her DPhil in 2018.