Faculty of Medical Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr Debbie Hicks
Debbie Hicks, Research Fellow

I gained my PhD and post-doctoral research experience whilst at the Institute of Genetic Medicine, working in the team of Professors Bushby, Straub and Lochmuller on heritable neuromuscular disorders. My publication record was reasonably strong but to become a credible external fellowship candidate I needed to gain independence as a researcher outside of the team. To facilitate this I applied for a Faculty Fellowship and was delighted to be successful.

At the time I was working on Neuromics, a €12 million pan-European project that was highly innovative and likely to benefit my career with high impact publications. The Faculty Fellowship Group advised me to use my funding to visit deCode Genetics (Iceland), a global leader in analysing and understanding the human genome. Here I received advanced training on an integrated bioinformatics tool (Clinical Sequence Analyser) for the rapid analysis of data derived from next generation sequencing and array methodologies. This activity accelerated my research project significantly and led to the discovery of two new neuromuscular disease causing genes (ANO5 and COL12), directly resulting in the publication of 7 journal articles (3 as first author).

As a Faculty Fellow I was allocated a mentor and together we felt that the next step towards my independent research career was to seek opportunities to move institute. I was delighted to be appointed to a promoted position of Senior Research Associate at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research. I know how instrumental my Faculty Fellowship was in being awarded this position; I don't think I would have got the job without this validation of my skills and potential. I am now establishing myself in my new field and this puts me in a strong position to apply for external fellowships, as per my career plan.