Dr Matthew Fok is a general surgical registrar training to be a colorectal surgeon and is Chair of the NCRI Early Career Researcher Forum. In this interview he tells us why he wanted to join the forum, what he is most looking forward to and why other early career researchers should join!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you wanted to join the NCRI Early Career Researcher Forum

I’m currently a general surgical registrar training to be a colorectal surgeon. I am taking time out of my training to complete a PhD in the lab investigating rectal cancer and radiotherapy at the University of Liverpool. I am passionate about cancer research, particularly collaborative research and teaching. I have previously completed a Master of Research in obesity and stem cells and, throughout my career, have been involved in the recruitment of patients to surgical trials. I love trying new food and spending time with my wife Charlotte and 1.5-year-old daughter Elodie in my spare time.

I joined the NCRI Early Career Researcher Forum because I strongly believe collaborative research can achieve incredible goals. The forum’s vision strongly aligns with this by collating those early in their cancer research career together to allow cross-disciplinary networking and novel and exciting collaborations.

What is the NCRI Early Career Researcher Forum? Why should early career researchers get involved?

The NCRI Early Career Researcher Forum is an exciting and novel initiative from the NCRI. It will be an inclusive and diverse network made entirely of early career researchers from every area of cancer research. We already have a wide range of researchers, including clinicians, surgeons, nurses, pure scientists, allied health professionals, psychiatrists, and physicists.

The forum itself will permit opportunities to develop novel collaborations between members traditionally formed through chance or who you know. It will also offer the ability for members to increase their skillsets and knowledge from experts in the field, from NCRI Consumers and each other, to further cancer research.

The NCRI recognises that early career researchers offer fresh and innovative ideas. Through their support, the forum will provide early career researchers access and the ability to contribute to the work of the NCRI Groups. In addition, established and high-profile members of the NCRI Groups will offer mentoring to the early career researcher members.

Tell us a bit about the Executive Committee

The Executive Committee is a representative extension of the NCRI Early Career Researcher Forum. Therefore, we made sure that it included members from various backgrounds, skillsets and specialities.

The committee includes academic clinical oncologists, scientists, psychologists, academic surgeons, research nurses, paediatric oncologists, and pathologists. The committee has a wide range of interests from big data to research delivery, laboratory research, cancer imaging and translational research.

There is real energy within the committee to represent and elevate early career researchers in cancer research and working with them will be fantastic. Consequently, I can promise that as the forum develops, we will see great things over the next few years.

You have recently been appointed as Chair of the Committee. What are you most looking forward to in your role?

I am looking forward to seeing cross-disciplinary and novel collaborations between early career researchers. Research thrives on collaboration and networking, and this has been difficult over the last couple of years with an ongoing pandemic. Still, in the past, the opportunities for early career researchers to network and collaborate have been minimal. The forum will help make this process much easier, and it will be exciting to watch those novel collaborations form.

I am also excited about the involvement of NCRI Consumers. This has never been done before, and our members are truly going to benefit from it.

Finally, there is a real appetite within the NCRI to incorporate early career researchers into the NCRI Groups, proposal guidance meetings and help to drive forward cancer research. As Chair, it will be great to see early career researchers elevated within the NCRI.

What can we expect to see from the NCRI Early Career Researcher Forum in the next 12 months?

There is a lot of work going into the inaugural NCRI Early Career Researcher Forum meeting. It will be an exciting event for learning, networking and collaborating. In addition, we will see selected members join the NCRI Groups and represent early career researchers within them. Finally, there will be some exciting workshops and events over the year.

We are actively recruiting all early career researchers within the cancer field in the UK!

How do I join?

If you are an early career researcher and are interested in joining the Early Career Researcher Forum, please register your interest to be kept informed.

Register your interest