Biomedicine alumna Ioanna wants to crack the cancer code

Name: Ioanna Tsea
Based: Stockholm, Sweden
Degree: Master’s Program in Biomedicine 2020
Current role: PhD Student at KI

KI-alumna in front of Aula Medica
KI alumna Ioanna Tsea

What is your educational background?

I grew up in a small city in Greece. After high school, I felt ready for new experiences, so I embraced change and moved to the United Kingdom for further education. There, I attained my BSc in Biological Sciences in 2018 from the University of Reading. During my studies, I performed my Bachelor thesis project on potential treatments against triple-negative breast cancer. This experience inspired me to pursue a career within the cancer research sector.  

Every one of my classmates shared my passion for science and research, but had different approaches to tackle the same problem.

Ioanna Tsea, Biomedicine alumna '20

How and why did you choose to study at KI?

Upon graduating from the University of Reading, I felt ready to relocate once again to continue my academic journey. I was looking for a Master's degree that would equip me with the specialised research techniques and skills needed for contemporary cancer research. I read about KI's research-intensive environment, world-leading scientists in cancer research as well as the multiple opportunities offered to KI students to work and learn from its innovative community. This convinced me that KI would be ideal to accommodate my plans of pursuing a PhD in Cancer Biology and fulfil my dream of becoming a world-leading scientist.  

What are your best memories from KI? 

While a student at KI, I found myself learning something new every day. I was part of a community so diverse, both in terms of culture as well as creativity. Every one of my classmates shared my passion for science and research, but had different approaches to tackle the same problem. It is so important to work with people that think in a different manner from yourself. This is the quickest way to broaden your horizons and grow both as a scientist and as a person.   

My best memory as a Master’s student is when I participated in my first lab meeting as the newest member of the research group. I was immediately treated as an equal and my opinions during discussions were both welcomed and respected. I soon realized KI’s mentality of equal treatment which also encouraged me to start thinking more critically towards my own work and others.  

 

What was next step after graduation? 

I haven’t left KI! I am preparing to start my PhD at the beginning of 2021. 

When I came to KI originally, I had the aspiration to continue my academic career by pursuing a PhD in Cancer Biology. For most of us with that aim, that means we first need to “test the waters” through working in several labs, having different specialisations and different working routines. I was lucky to find a great research team during my first research project and most importantly a PI (Principal Investigator) that could fire my passion for research and ambition to succeed. As a result, I returned to the same lab group to perform my Master thesis which in a way acted as an ‘’interview process” for my continuation in the group as a PhD student.  

How is being a PhD student be different from a Master’s? 

I would say the day-to-day workload is relatively similar with a focus on wet-lab experiments. However, you start acquiring more responsibilities outside your project and collaborate with other lab members or collaborators on joint projects. You finally have your own office (yay!), which made me feel that I have outgrown my student phase. You are responsible of producing weekly results that can be discussed over meetings with your supervisor.  Although I do have support from my superiors, it is really up to me to manage my time and my experiments accordingly. The experiences I had through the practical placements offered during my Master’s in KI definitely prepared me for a smooth transition from Master’s to PhD, both in terms of practical knowledge as well as mentally as the pressure and expectations during a PhD increase exponentially. 

What are your future aspirations? 

I came to KI with the dream of continuing my academic aspirations and fuel my passion for cancer research by becoming a PhD student. I was lucky to find fellow classmates and colleagues that continuously have been - and are to this day-  supporting me towards a career in academia and research. I believe the secret of staying in academia is working with the right people that fit your learning profile. I am determined to continue aiming high to achieve my biggest goal which is establishing my own lab and bringing new knowledge to cancer research that could save lives. 

How did your studies at KI help your future career?  

By performing my Master’s degree at KI, I was able to experience first hand the expectations and responsibilities a young researcher needs to meet in order to perform research at the highest level. Moreover, the opportunity to work with different groups and in different research fields further validated that a career within cancer research is the right choice for me. Finally, the chance to work in three research projects provides training opportunity for multiple molecular techniques as well as animal work that helps build a strong CV for a future in both academia and industry. 

What is your advice to current students? 

BE PROACTIVE: Go after your goals and look for people that can help you achieve them.  

BE AMBITIOUS: Aim high and put as much work as you can to reach there. 

BE OPEN: Expect change and welcome it, accept and give help when asked, never waste an opportunity to learn something new. 

 

Interview and correspondence:  Tinkara Vozel, KI Bioentreprenuership Master's student, 21'