A Day in the Life: “We are modern day science supported by past knowledge”

Meryem Aarab writes about her work with lung cancer, and what inspires her to inspire others and help other people, including volunteering in a children’s cancer ward.

World Cancer Research Day

24 September is World Cancer Research Day, which raises awareness of the important and lifesaving work done by researchers. As part of this the EACR asked a variety of members to share a day in their life as a cancer researcher.

Name: Meryem Aarab
Nationality: Moroccan
Place of work: Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of Hassan II University, Casablanca, Morocco
Job title: PhD student
How long have you worked there: 2-3 years

Meryem Aarab
Meryem presenting at the EACR Tracking Cancer Conference

On a typical working day I would go to the University Hospital around 8 am. I get acquainted with newly diagnosed lung cancer patients. I explain to them the purpose of my research and get their informed consent before accompanying them to the nurse’s office. Here, they will have their blood drawn and sampled into test tubes. I would later on head back to the laboratory to process my patients’ samples. The processing of each sample takes 3 days, so every day I would be simultaneously handling today, yesterday and the previous day’s samples. Around 4 or 5 pm, I would be finished with my manipulation so I get to record my progress on a laboratory journal and write down the detail of the experiment before going home.

Meryem Aarab
Meryem’s lab

I devote a great deal of my time and focus to my research. However, it doesn’t keep me from enjoying my many hobbies. I paint, play the violin and workout pretty much every day. Every Monday evening, I volunteer in the Pediatric Oncology Department of our hospital. Instead of viewing the patients as a means to reach my goals, I want to connect with the patients on a human level. I volunteer in the kids ward instead of the adult one. This is simply because I believe that the disease makes them mature way ahead of their ages. I love reminding them of the fun of playing around and preparing for school like any toddler. And truth be told, it is me who benefits from our interactions; the feeling I get while watching cancer afflicted children smile and act carefree is indescribable.

Meryem Aarab
Meryem volunteering at the children’s ward

My PhD lurks in the horizon; I will have graduated by the end of 2020. By then, my journey in the research field will have only just started. Many accomplishments will follow and maybe, someday, my name will also be engraved in history.

In the end I can sum up by saying that as researchers, we are fundamentally human beings whose purpose is to make life easier, help alleviate the burden of unanswered questions and broaden the horizon of possibilities. We are a mixture of brain and heart, curiosity and proof. We are modern day science supported by past knowledge.

I believe that as human beings, we each have a mission to accomplish on this earth before we perish. Some of us are quickly forgotten after they die while others have their names strongly engraved in history books.

How can you get involved with World Cancer Research Day?

1. Sign the World Declaration for Cancer Research

2. On 24 September share a snapshot on social media from a day in your life as a cancer researcher: use #WorldCancerResearchDay

Click here to see more posts about a ‘Day in the Life’ of other cancer researchers.

About Meryem:

My name is Meryem Aarab, I am a Moroccan PhD student. I aspire to inspire people before I draw my last breath. As soon as I graduated high school I knew I wanted a career that would impact human lives in the thousands. Medicine was my obvious choice but fate steered me in the direction of biology instead. I decided to take the path of research the moment I enrolled in college, majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biology then getting a Master’s degree in Health Sciences. Pursuing a PhD was a natural decision to make.

I chose lung cancer as the topic of my research for it is the most common and most lethal cancer worldwide. My research is basically about identifying malignant cells that circulate in the bloodstream of cancer patients and looking for these same cells in high risk smokers.