10 September 2021

BRIC Alumni Aliaksandra Radzisheuskaya joins the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) as new PI

After 7 years in Helin group at BRIC and Memorial Sloan Kettering, research associate Aliaksandra (Alex) Radzisheuskaya will start her own research group at ICR, which will focus on the relationship between chromatin structure and genome stability. Alex is the latest in a line of BRIC alumni deciding to start their own group, and she lists scientific curiosity and ambition to pursue her own vision and research direction as main drivers behind her decision. Further, Alex emphasizes how excellent scientific and administrative support at BRIC helped her pave the way.

Aliaksandra Radzisheuskaya
Research associate Aliaksandra (Alex) Radzisheuskaya

A journey into the field of epigenetics

Alex originally obtained her PhD in 2014 at the Wellcome Trust – MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute. Here she studied molecular mechanisms of cellular reprogramming and embryonic stem cell differentiation. However, during her PhD, Alex also had a side project related to epigenetics – A project that would soon send her on a journey into a new and fascinating field.

Although epigenetics was not her main focus at the time of her PhD, Alex found the field so interesting, that she soon after joined the Helin group at BRIC. Here she studied how chromatin-associated proteins regulate gene expression and cell fate decisions, and how they contribute to cancer in particular acute myeloid leukemia.

From the start, Alex was drawn to the laboratory research in itself, but eventually she also developed her own ideas and research questions. Ideas and questions that were best pursued and answered by starting her own lab:

Ever since I’ve tried laboratory research, I’ve always enjoyed it: designing and performing experiments, optimizing methods, analyzing results. However, after being a postdoc for quite a long time, I’ve developed my own vision of the field and my own ideas and research directions that I would like to follow. This is only achievable within a context of my own laboratory”, says Aliaksandra Radzisheuskaya.

Running her own group in the near future, Alex will continue her research in the field of chromatin biology. Further, Alex looks forward to pass on her own experience within the field, shaping the next generation of researchers:

I am specifically interested in the relationship between chromatin structure and genome stability and in how changes in chromatin organization influence acquisition of specific cell fates and induce cancer. Further, I am passionate about the development of the next generation of scientists and I really enjoy lab supervision. In the long run, I would like to participate in shaping education and research systems and policies of academic institutions”, says Aliaksandra Radzisheuskaya

“An excellent place to pursue a scientific career at any level”

Deciding to become a PI and take your research to the next level is one thing – Qualifying for it another. Therefore, during her time at BRIC, Alex engaged herself in some of the career development courses, which BRIC offers to all BRIC postdocs:

Even before I joined BRIC, I got a lot of support on writing my fellowship applications from the research coordinators at BRIC. Thanks to them, I secured both an EMBO Long-Term fellowship and the Marie-Sklodowska Curie fellowship. During my time at BRIC, I participated in many seminars in the “From postdoc to PI” series, which provided really good suggestions on the career search and application process and made me realize how unique each career path is. BRIC is an excellent place to pursue a scientific career at any level”, says Aliaksandra Radzisheuskaya.

Besides the administrative and scientific support from the research Centre, Alex credits her former colleagues in Helin group, along with PI Kristian Helin, for helping her hone her research skills and making her time at BRIC remarkable:

Kristian has been very supportive of me pursuing a career in academia, and he is an excellent role model.
Frequent lab and small group meetings taught me to always be prepared to give an update on my projects, while weekly journal clubs not only updated me on the current literature, but also taught me to assess the data critically on the spot. Further, I had a lot of opportunities to supervise students, and this experience will be very important in my new research group!
Last but not the least, the Helin lab at BRIC was always very friendly and sociable. We had great times together both in the lab and outside it. I made many really good friends in the lab during my time at BRIC, and I will always remember this time very fondly
”, says Aliaksandra Radzisheuskaya.