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Meet Nicole – From Books to Bench

Hear from Nicole Mak, a Biology student at Bath University, on her year in industry with Samsara.

Why Samsara?

The research role at Samsara aligned perfectly with my passions and skillset. I have always wanted to play a part in improving patient outcomes and, working to discover novel autophagy therapeutics, Samsara does just that.

The chance to work within a rapidly expanding research area such as autophagy excited me. The extensive, ubiquitous cellular degradation and recycling process offers a vast number of potential targets, providing an untapped opportunity to identify treatments for neurodegenerative and rare genetic diseases.

Another factor that drew me to the role was my overwhelmingly positive interview experience. The warm welcome from the team made me feel immediately at ease and I knew that this would be an environment where I would feel empowered to develop both personally and professionally.

Describe ‘A Day in the Life’

I have two main roles at Samsara, one within the screening team and the other in target validation. The opportunity to collaborate closely with other colleagues, alongside working in two teams, has helped me develop a broad range of both technical and analytical skills.

On the screening team, working with James, I assess new compounds for their ability to induce autophagy as well as whether they exhibit any toxicity. After having passed the screening phase, lead compounds then go through target validation. Here Alkmini and I do further tests to ensure that the engagement of the target has potential therapeutic benefit.

On top of this we also have team away days and everyone is encouraged to continually upskill themselves by attending relevant courses and conferences. Early on in my placement John recommended for a colleague and I to attend an introductory course on drug discovery which helped me to develop a much clearer understanding of the process right from the start of my time with Samsara.

From Books to Bench

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, I had been unable put my learnings into practice. The wealth of knowledge spanning multiple disciplines across the small but mighty team at Samsara has given me the unique opportunity to exercise advanced techniques with their support.

Just being in the same environment as my colleagues has allowed me to grow tremendously in knowledge and confidence. As everyone on the team is so friendly, I never worry if I am unsure or make a mistake which I think is a large part of what has helped me to familiarise myself with new concepts with ease.

Parting Advice?

Have as much belief in yourself as others have in you. Joining the team mid- degree and with no prior industry experience, I came in doubting my ability to contribute, which was in itself, a massive limitation. Trust yourself. If something does not go to plan you can always repeat it.

Looking to make a difference?

We are always open to new talent that have a passion for autophagy research. Check out open positions here.