Researcher Freya Boardman-Pretty on what it's like to investigate a field of unknowns

25 November 2015        

A portrait picture of Freya

PhD student Freya Boardman-Pretty is a BHF-funded researcher looking at genetics at University College London (UCL). 

She has recently been part of a UCL team led by BHF Professor Steve Humphries which discovered a gene that is linked to an increased risk of heart disease in women. Here she writes about her research, motivations and how much more there is still to discover in the field of genetics.

Why research?

I've always enjoyed learning about how our world works, so science was always likely to be a big part of my future. But it was the problem-solving aspect of genetics that particularly interested me - working out how genes contribute to diseases and the other traits that differ between us.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

It's a subject that's constantly changing. Even in the last 15 years, the sequencing of the human genome (our complete set of DNA) has transformed genetic research. We now understand much more about previously-unknown areas of the genome that control the activity of our genes, and potentially affect disease.

Read about another BHF-funded researcher's experiences here

What excites you most about research? 

In a field where so much is still unknown, I was attracted to the idea of doing a PhD and working on something that no one else had done before. Working on heart disease has given me the chance to discover more about the causes of a health issue that's so important in the UK and worldwide. By finding out more about the genetics behind heart disease we can build a better picture of how and why the disease develops, and work out how to prevent people from developing it.

What is your ultimate goal?

Although between 30 and 50 per cent of heart disease risk is inherited, most of the genetic factors contributing to it are still unknown. I'd like to find out every genetic element affecting heart disease, so that we could understand the big picture. But unfortunately this isn't feasible yet. 

For now I love working on the genes that we know through research affect our risk of heart disease and finding out how they do it. And in the meantime, try to follow the BHF's advice to stay active and not eat all of the office cake.


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