Stefan J. Barfeld
The invisible enemy
Department / Institution
Centre for Molecular Medicine Norway (NCMM), University of Oslo
I remember the very first time that I read about DNA and thought, ‘So this is the basis of all life, fascinating’. This was probably in sixth or seventh grade and from that moment on, I was bewitched. Naturally, I went on to expand my knowledge and got to know proteins, enzymes and many others of the millions of small particles that control our bodies. Strikingly, we cannot see most of them, even with the best microscopes available today. The study of the interplay between these ‘invisible’ yet powerful particles or molecules is called molecular biology and it became my career choice.
My PhD project
As mentioned above, I am fascinated by the smallest of structures, such as proteins and DNA, and the consequences of their actions. Since I am also interested in medicine and diseases, it was only natural to combine the two fields. Thus, I decided to join a prostate cancer research group here in Oslo almost three years ago. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and every year, several thousand people in Norway die of it. We still struggle to understand the exact causes of the disease and so far no cure has been found. What we do know, however, is that prostate cancer cells have a growth advantage over their normal counterparts. This allows them to grow faster and larger until they overwhelm the prostate and other parts of the body, thereby leading to metastases. This is where molecular biology and my work come into play. I am trying to figure out which molecules influence and steer the mechanisms that provide cancer cells with these dangerous abilities that result in human suffering and often death.
My career dream
Currently, I am enjoying the balance between active lab work and the computer-based analyses that come with it. Thus, a scientific career is not out of the question. Nevertheless, as with so many things in life, you never know what will happen in the future. Especially since a PhD in molecular biology opens the door to a lot of different fields of work. For example, I enjoy talking about science and presenting it to non-scientists, so why not aim for a career in science communication or pharma/biotech representation?