A warm welcome to Irfan Khalid

img_0034-copyPlease join us in welcoming a new arrival to our team, Irfan Khalid, who started with us in November 2016 as a Project Assistant. We thought we would ask some searching questions to find out what makes Irfan tick.

Q: You have a degree in Biomedical Science and a Masters in Cancer Pharmacology, can you tell us more about those?

A: The reason I chose to study a Biomedical Science degree was because of the diverse topics that were covered. I’ve always been fascinated by science. There was a module which was on cancer, which I particularly enjoyed because of the amount of research involved. In terms of drugs that are out there, it’s still the old-fashioned ones that are being used. Things like methotrexate in chemotherapy, but with these drugs there are still a lot of side effects.

I did a Masters in Cancer Pharmacology, which gave me the opportunity to do some research myself and I spent around half of the year in a lab.  My project was to see if different environments affected colorectal cancer cells. If we starved a cancer cell of oxygen (hypoxia) for instance, would that sustain growth or halt it? My results showed that hypoxia weakened the cancer cells and then when treated with an anti-cancer agent (Dasatinib), cell growth halted.

I enjoyed critically appraising publications and therapeutics that already exist, or even more exciting, the anti-cancer agents in development. I felt by learning about therapeutics I was contributing to research. I believe there is a cure for cancer, but with natural products. I looked into drugs which were less invasive, had fewer side effects and improved patient quality of life. When you can appreciate the hallmarks of cancer and are able to distinguish between a normal cell and a cancer cell, it is a foundation which you can build upon in terms of drug development.

Q: Can you tell us about the job you have enjoyed the most?

A: The job I enjoyed the most is the one I had the longest. This was working as a Customer Service Assistant at Tesco. The main reason I stayed there for so long was because every day was different and challenging. I felt like I was making a difference to the customer. I dealt with customer complaints and queries mainly, but would also get positive feedback from customers about their shopping experiences. The customer was always at the heart of what I did. A good example of this is when I volunteered to do an “assisted shop” with the elderly. The majority of the time these shoppers would just like some company and someone to talk with, it was great fun.

Q: What are you most passionate about professionally?

A: I am most passionate about developing my scientific knowledge, in particularly about cancer, and trying to raise awareness. With science, you can learn something new every day, as it is so broad.

Q: What are you surprisingly good at?

A: Communication, I am articulate in presenting myself verbally. I am surprised about how I communicate as I felt this was not something I had in me. I am a pretty confident person but I didn’t realise that it could become a strength. I am proud of how I have developed in my previous roles and can now communicate well with different audiences.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

A: I am very family orientated – I spend a lot of time with my 3-year-old nephew and 6-year-old niece. When I spend time with them, time flies and an entire weekend just goes by. When I’m not with them, I miss them. They are at such an important age and I feel I can be a role model for them.

I also love playing sports, such as table tennis. I really enjoy playing and practising. I also like badminton but it’s a struggle finding someone else who shares this interest! The main sport I love is football, I have played for as long as I can remember.

Q: Who is your hero?

A: Sir Alex Ferguson. He is so passionate and has that winning mentality. He doesn’t just think “I have won the league this season, I can relax”. He has that hunger and desire to succeed but doesn’t get carried away with success. When I think Manchester United, I think of Sir Alex managing the club. There have been managers before and after, but he is iconic.

Q: What makes you laugh the most?

A: When people tell funny anecdotes about their personal experiences, they are hilarious. Maybe because they are real-life events and I can relate to them so they become funnier. When people do silly things that happen in everyday life, that amuses me too.