Eglė Butkevičiūtė

Project: Does the BCG vaccine protect infants from severe forms of childhood tuberculosis by trained innate and humoral immune mechanisms? 

What were you doing before you joined the MRC DTP scheme?

I did an MSc Immunology of Infectious Diseases course at LSHTM.

Why did you choose your primary institution (LSHTM or SGUL)?

I was looking for a project with a focus on mycobacterial infections and interaction between mycobacteria and the host. The topic of my current project seemed very close to my interests at the time, so I just went for it. What I really like about LSHTM though, is that so many people here work on closely related topics approaching them from completely different angles – from biological mechanisms to population level phenomena – all of it happily shared in multiple talks and seminars! I think that helps to form a holistic view to one’s field of interest and gain a deeper understanding of it.

What do you enjoy most about your day-to-day work and the people you work with?

Our lab is friendly and supportive. Which is definitely motivating and encouraging project wise! I like that doing a laboratory based research project (or any research project, for that matter) enables you to learn new information or skills every single day.

What do you value most about the MRC DTP studentship?

MRC LID DTP programme definitely encourages one to train and pick up new skills all the time. Attending workshops, seminars, courses, or conferences is strongly encouraged by the programme. Public engagement, teaching activities are encouraged too! In addition, because we are registered as students both within LSHTM and SGUL, we can use library resources or obtain training within both institutions, so enriching our experience.

What additional training have you attended with MRC DTP money?

I attended a two-week Quantitative Immunology course organised by Hong Kong University and Institute Pasteur in December 2018. The course covered novel –omics and single cell techniques, quantitative approaches to extract and process information from large datasets and application of these methods in immunological studies of infectious diseases, responses to vaccines or other fields.

Where did you go on your placement? What did you do?

I did my placement with the World Health Organization. I was working on a project aiming to understand the causes for discrepancies in global burden of disease estimates for enteric infections generated by different models. My part involved reviewing literature used by the two main modelling groups to generate morbidity and mortality estimates for enteric pathogens and its systematic grading to help determine how different study design and levels of thoroughness affect the output of such models. Quite a change in perspective – and absolutely worth it!

Do you have any tips for future MRC DTP scholarship applicants?

First and foremost, be genuinely interested in your field. Don’t do a PhD just for the sake of doing it – think about whether it’s the right time for that, where it will lead you and where will it place you in your field of interest. Do your homework – research your ideas, read about your methods, think about how it contributes to the field. Is it feasible? Remember that it’s a commitment. At the same time, don’t be afraid of it! By doing your project you will learn a lot. More than you think!

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