skip to primary navigationskip to content

Mentoring and Support

Mentoring 1

The Unit is proud to uphold a well connected multidisciplinary, multicultural supportive and nurturing environment for all round development. As a Unit we wish to facilitate personal and professional development for all our staff and students, ultimately enabling them to achieve their full potential, regardless of the stage of their careers. From Programme Leaders to students, all our members, have access to bespoke mentoring networks and can receive guidance and support from their supervisors and peers about various matters ranging from career progression strategies to broadening scientific horizons. The Unit also actively disseminates information about mentoring support available through the wider University.

Members of our Support Services team offer induction mentoring to all new starters at the Unit with an aim to help orientate and familiarise new starters to their new settings (such as with procedures, policies, personnel, sources of help and information, location of key equipment) and also to signpost a neutral and impartial confidante for any concerns or difficulties that a new member may have during the settling in period.

Subsequent pastoral and mentoring support for all staff and students is available through the Head of the Department, the Units Scientific and Operations Portfolio Manager and through the HR support team, as applicable. Between them they help individuals develop their strengths and potential, identify their changing needs, concerns, values, aspirations, and address what's most important to them. An exhaustive annual Appraisal exercise and a robust Probation system are also in place to ensure consonance between the expectations and responsibilities of staff and students and their line managers, such that ultimately everyone receives the attention and opportunity they require to achieve their full potential.

 In addition, we organise specific events (such as the fortnightly Work in Progress talks, the monthly group leaders’ meetings (Chalk talks), the Seminars in Oncology series and the Centre’s Annual Retreat) to facilitate developmental mentoring for staff and students. At such events members of the Unit have an opportunity to present their own work and receive specific feedback from supervisors and peers or listen to external experts and world leaders in the field. This form of mentoring, involving a free exchange of ideas and information through discussions, inevitably leads to solutions, strategies and action plans for mentees. These events also serve to widen the individual’s support network, build transferable skills, provide motivation and improve self -confidence.


Mentoring and Support 2


Graduate students have access to mentoring and support through regular meetings with their laboratory supervisor, postdocs and fellow students as well as through a dedicated Graduate Administration team who advice and support on all pastoral matters, training opportunities and provide administrative support. More specific information is available in the Graduate Students Handbook.

 Lastly, the Unit supports and closely collaborates with the Hutch Graduate Students Society and the Post-Doc Society who run their own calendar of mentoring events and talks throughout the year, alongside social events.




Testimony to the mentoring and well-being support received by our students and post-docs is best encapsulated in their own words: 

Christina Schmidt (PhD student, 2017- current):“Being part of the MRC Cancer unit has offered me the great opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary research environment with a variety of training opportunities.  I especially enjoy the collaborative atmosphere between the groups within the Unit and the possibility to capitalize on their expertise.  Indeed, my PhD project has highly benefited from the discussions and collaborations I have started within the building.  Apart from this collaborative research environment that helped me greatly in developing my scientific skills, the MRC Cancer Unit also encourages the development of transferable skills important for my later career stages.  For instance, as part of the “Hutchison Graduate Society” students can invite speakers for scientific talks, but also for a variety of career talks and organize social events.  When organizing these activities, we have to plan our budget and manage the entire event.  Therefore, being part of this society showed me other aspects of the job, has taught me to work efficiently, and improved my leadership skills.  As part of the Marie Curie Network I have visited and worked in a lot of different institutions across Europe and the MRC Cancer Unit has by far the most unique, collaborative environment.”


Dr David Shorthouse (Research Associate, 2015 - current): "I came to the unit in 2015 after completing a DPhil programme in the biochemistry department at the University of Oxford, specialising in biophysics and structural biology. Whilst at the Unit, I have developed an extensive set of skills in genomics analysis, machine learning, and systems biology, and have brought these skills to use in projects with Jacqui Shields, Carla Martins, Rebecca Fitzgerald, and Department of Oncology member Richard Gilbertson.  I have become an expert on the role of ion channels in early cancer, and in using structural biology methods to identify genetic drivers of cancer. I have presented extensively around the UK and internationally about my work, and have collaborations with multiple research institutes around the globe.  Public engagement has been an important facet of my time at the Unit - I have organised and run numerous engagement events for the Unit, and in collaboration with my group leader have initiated and delivered on a project to improve teaching of A level biology for the OCR exam board.  I have helped improve the engagement programme of the MRC Cancer Unit extensively, including securing a successful seed funding grant.The Unit has also provided opportunities to supervise more junior researchers, particularly summer studentships where I have designed, recruited, and published work from 6-9 week-long master’s level projects.  Strong links between the Unit and the Cambridge Clinical School has also resulted in my co-chairing the hospital postdoc committee, representing all postdocs across the hospital site for a year.  The Unit has fostered an extremely collaborative environment for research, where working together is encouraged and rewarded, and has provided personal and training support for managing my multiple responsibilities".