School of Medicine

Whitney Baine: MSc Oncology (Alumni)

Whitney shares how her postgraduate degree in oncology has significantly influenced her career in clinical research by providing her with a strong foundation in understanding cancer and its therapies.

How has your postgraduate degree influenced your career?

“My postgraduate degree has significantly influenced my career in clinical research by providing me with a strong foundation. I moved into clinical research and part of my master's degree was talking about what cancer is, how it develops, and what the therapies are.

I had a better background frame of reference, and I understood the drugs that we were trialling better than anyone around me. I could read a protocol. I knew exactly what the mechanism of action was. I knew what the drugs were trying to do. I understood the statistical analysis behind it. So, it set me up to move into working in clinical research in my career.”

What aspects of your course did you enjoy most, and did they influence your career choice?

“I had no specific career path in mind when I joined the course. I was completely uncertain about what I wanted to do, even while I was studying. However, what I enjoyed most about the course was the exposure it provided to various aspects of oncology research. It covered a wide range of topics, including cancer immunology. This exposure allowed me to explore different areas beyond oncology and gain a broader perspective on the field, which was important because that is a big field of advancement in cancer research at this time.”

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Top skills you gained from your course?

“The course provided me with practical knowledge of how to conduct experiments effectively. This is a skill that can sometimes be overlooked in academic settings but is fundamental in research and practical work. I had the opportunity to work closely with exceptional professors and lecturers who were experts in their fields. Observing their work and the way they approached complex problems was invaluable.”

“The confidence I gained through the programme was the most valuable skill. Working alongside some of the greatest minds in cancer research in the UK, including physicians and professors, gave me the confidence to further communicate with experienced professionals in the field. You learn the vocabulary and get the exposure, because you are working directly next to your lecturers who are doing the research.”

Did you have a career plan after graduation?

“I wasn't great at lab work. It wasn't for me. I knew at the end that I didn't want to do a PhD, but a friend recommended me to work for this major university in Saint Louis in Cancer Research. I fell into it, and I loved it. I loved getting to work with all the new drugs coming down the pipeline. My MSc helped me understand the different mechanisms of action and the different ways these drugs worked.

I absolutely loved it, but there was a time when I grew out of it. So now what I do is I manage trials for the pharmaceutical companies at sites all over the country. I help the people that I once was. I love helping the coordinators become the best version of themselves. The research side is clinical research and it’s a lot to take in, there are a lot of moving pieces.

I love getting to work with the different sites, getting to see if these theories work. It's one thing to develop a theory in the lab on a cell in a matrix, which is what we were doing when I was at Nottingham, but different to see how it actually works in a patient population. If I can ever make someone's life better so they get to see their grandkids, that's really where the joy is.”

How has the support on offer been? “Ian Spendlove and Claire Seedhouse were absolutely wonderful. They were so smart, kind, and generous with their time and their feedback, those two individuals made my entire experience. They were absolutely incredible. Also, Beth Coyle, who was my advisor on my project. She was kind and very patient because as I said, I was not great at lab, but her PhD students and the team she built around her were incredible. When I was there, it was an all-female lab and that was incredibly empowering to be a part of. It was great to be around a lot of strong, smart women, who are in all phases. It was amazing.”

Everyone had to go through the same material and just learn a basis for history, literature, and art and archaeology, which was so useful. It also made me more confident in what I was really interested in and what route I’d want to go down for the other two years of my degree.

Any advice for current students on the course?

“Make the most of your lecturers and their knowledge. They are approachable and willing to help. Don't hesitate to ask questions or seek guidance when needed. Understand that the field you're studying is dynamic and constantly evolving.”

Be prepared for information to change and stay open to learning new things. Utilise every tool around you, go talk to your lecturers. I wish I had done it more my first semester. I definitely did it my second semester, but I wish I had taken more advantage of the people who were around and supposed to help me. They were wonderful.”

What does ‘success’ look like for you?

“Just always being challenged. I would hope that everyone's definition of success changes as they get older. As you know, your life moves and shifts, but just to always be challenged and keep moving, evolving, and learning as much about this world.”

What does the future hold?

“I’d like to keep progressing from the sponsor role and go into project management. Whether that's running these studies not just at a site level in the US, but at a global level with sites all over the world.

The company I work for now it's an international company. We have sites in Australia, Denmark and Israel and we're thinking about opening in Japan. I think that that would be a great opportunity – to look at it from a more global perspective.”


School of Medicine

University of Nottingham
Medical School
Nottingham, NG7 2UH

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