I’m a female scientist with a voracious passion for biomedical science, reproducibility and public engagement. Genetically Bulgarian since 1992, epigenetically Danish since 2001, under strong positive selection in the UK since 2013!
Following on from a Wellcome Trust-funded PhD (2015-2018) in Metabolic and Cardiovascular Disease at the Institute of Metabolic Science, Cambridge, I am now a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow at UCL Cancer Institute. My research passion lies in a quantitative understanding of class IA PI3K signalling, with a particular focus on disease-associated, activating mutations in the p110α (PIK3CA) catalytic subunit of this kinase. My current work extends directly from discoveries that I made while still a PhD student with Prof Robert Semple. Under his supervision, I established human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) models with heterozygous and homozygous expression of activating PIK3CA mutations, commonly seen in most solid tumours as well as in benign developmental overgrowth disorders. This hiPSC series enabled the discovery of allele dose-dependent effects of oncogenic PIK3CA mutations on stemness/cell plasticity, emphasising the importance of faithful gene dosage control in disease-relevant model systems. I have since become fascinated with understanding how cells interpret different patterns (e.g. quantities or dynamics) of PI3K activation, particularly in the context of cell fate decisions. Long-term, my hope is that basic discoveries in this area will translate into improved therapies for patients with PI3K-related disorders. I am indebted to my research sponsors and collaborators, including Prof Bart Vanhaesebroeck (host lab PI, primary sponsor), Prof Julio-Saez Rodriguez (secondary sponsor), Dr Joshua Breunig, Dr Chris Tape, Prof Alex Toker and Dr Viktor Korolchuk.
Open Science & Research Integrity Advocate
During my time in Cambridge, I also got increasingly engaged with the emerging Open Science movement in the UK. I have taken part in various grassroots activities aimed at promoting research integrity/reproducibility nationally as well as internationally. In 2019, I wrote a FEBS Commentary, giving my perspective on key issues with current research culture and potential solutions based on the tenets of Open Science. I am currently a member of the UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN) and recently co-authored a Universal Funders Policy together with Prof Chris Chambers. I advocate for an overhaul of current research assessment metrics, shifting focus from quantity to quality, as part of wider efforts to enable reproducible and thriving research.
As of May 2022, I have been appointed to serve a 3-year-term as member of the UK’s inaugural Committee on Research Integrity (UK CORI). UK CORI is hosted by UKRI but operates independently and is tasked with promoting research integrity nationally and internationally, across research disciplines. For more information, please visit the UK CORI website.