The journey of a scientist is often defined by the transitions they make, and mine has been no exception. In the world of research, transitions are not just scientific leaps; they are personal odysseys that define who we are and shape our perspectives. My fascination with the details of laboratory medicine began during my undergraduate studies. The allure of cancer research gripped my heart as I delved into various clinical and statistical research, seeking to contribute to humanity’s fight against this disease.

As fate would have it, throughout my time as a research assistant in a clinical cancer research centre, I found myself in the midst of the first pandemic of my lifetime. Working at a referral hospital, I was involved in COVID-19 research and witnessed the sombre reality of COVID-19, where hope and despair seemed to intermingle. Amidst the uncertainty and loss, I discovered the strength to face fears and challenges head-on. Witnessing the sheer devastation and loss of life was both heartbreaking and motivating, further fuelling my passion for contributing to medical research.

Amir during his time as a research assistant

The thirst for knowledge and a burning desire to make a difference motivated me to seek new horizons. I wanted to understand how research findings at the bench translate to benefits at the bedside. Driven by this curiosity, I decided to take a bold leap and pursue a PhD in a translational lab abroad, where I embarked on a life-changing journey to Australia, eager to work with mice and organoids in a new environment and a foreign language.

The transition from clinical study to pre-clinical research was nothing short of an exhilarating rollercoaster ride. At the outset, it felt like stepping into uncharted territory as I navigated through scientific jargon and technicalities in a language that was not my own. Communication became an art, and I found myself learning not only the language but also the nuances of cross-cultural collaboration.

My days were filled with moments of excitement, frustration, and discovery. While conducting research with murine and organoid models, I encountered obstacles that were unique to this new setting. I faced challenges in understanding the details of the experimental protocols, managing data analysis, and interpreting results, all while adapting to a different lab culture.

“In the end, it is the joy of discovery and the hope of making a difference that fuels our pursuit of knowledge”

Amidst the difficulties, I found a silver lining in the form of my incredibly supportive supervisor and lab members. They encouraged me to think outside the box, empowering me to tackle scientific hurdles with creativity and innovation.

Yet, it was precisely these challenges that became the catalysts for my growth as a researcher and as an individual. The transition demanded resilience, adaptability, and a willingness to embrace the unknown. With every hurdle I overcame, I felt a surge of confidence that boosted my scientific pursuits.

As I reflect on my path, I am reminded of a quote I hold dear: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” Each transition has been a dance of discovery, where I have learned to let go of old paradigms and embrace new possibilities.

My story, like those of countless other researchers, is one of Science in Motion – a continuous journey of exploration, learning, and growth. From the challenges of clinical research to the uncharted territories of pre-clinical studies, each step has been an adventure. The road ahead may be uncertain but armed with the experiences and wisdom gained, I am eager to face the scientific frontiers that await.

In the end, it is the joy of discovery and the hope of making a difference that fuels our pursuit of knowledge. For it is not merely the transitions we navigate but the impact we leave on the scientific landscape that defines us as researchers and as human beings.

About the author:

I am Amir Shamshirian, a PhD candidate in Immunology at the Immunopathology Laboratory of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. I have experienced various areas within laboratory medicine, with a focus on cancer research, during my undergraduate and research assistant days. Currently, I’m devoted to studying the impact of cytokines in preventing and treating Graft-versus-Host Disease (GVHD). Beyond academia, I find joy in professional table tennis, gym workouts, and expressing my artistic side through painting and playing the piano.

Amir is also an EACR Member and Ambassador.

About this article

This is one of our shortlisted entries for the 2023 EACR Science Communication Prize on the topic of Science in Motion: Navigating Transitions. Choosing a winner was incredibly difficult and we’re delighted to be able to share our amazing shortlist.