Victoria Hill is a 2nd year PhD student at the University of Sheffield in Tim Craggs lab – she is also one of your fantastic student reps! We had a Q&A with Victoria to get to know her a little better. See below for Victoria’s interview covering a range of topics from her hobbies to her PhD research and her experience of starting a PhD in the middle of a global pandemic, which many of you will be able to relate to!!
Describe your research in one tweet
I use computer simulations to look at the conformational dynamics of supercoiled and damaged DNA. I’m also using an experimental method called smFRET for looking at that as well as DNA allostery. My simulations will help refine the current assumptions made in smFRET experiments.
How did you get started with it/why?
I used the theoretical techniques (called Molecular Dynamics) during my Master’s and really enjoyed it. I enjoy looking at the conformational dynamics of biologically-relevant systems and this project was particularly interesting because it will not only tell us about the DNA itself but also how proteins will interact with it. It also helps us understand and explain our experimental findings a lot better. I particularly liked that I could also combine it with some of my own experimental work, as I then get to compare my theoretical results to those that I get myself in the lab.
What is the toughest challenge you’ve had to overcome in science so far?
As the only person in the lab doing these simulations, it can be hard sometimes to troubleshoot any problems that come up, but luckily I have some amazing collaborators who are always happy to help!
What do you value the most about working in science?
I often think that I am really lucky to enjoy my job so much! There are many things that I value in it but I think the main one must be the collaborations – getting to work with people at the top of their field and gain their insights into my research and getting the opportunities to learn from them.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when settling into your PhD?
Definitely starting during the COVID-19 pandemic! I was only able to go into the lab for the first time and meet my whole group about 6 months into my PhD! Until then I had been working from home. Despite this, the whole lab has made me feel really welcome, even if it was just virtually, but the pub trip we had that week was definitely long overdue.
What do you do when you’re not sciencing?
One of the reasons that I chose Sheffield (apart from loving the sound of my project and choosing a really supportive PI) was how close it is to the Peak District! I love going out there and usually on my days off I will try and squeeze a walk in, either in the Peaks or around one of the many lovely nature spots around Sheffield.