John Ronald, PhD, joined the Department of Medical Biophysics in June 2015, and he is setting up his lab at Robarts Research Institute. We spoke to him about his current research and what he's looking forward to as a scientist at Robarts.
Why did you decide to become a scientist?
My parents always said I would never leave school because of my love for learning, but it was really the loss of several family members way too early that drove me into medical research. This deeply impressed upon me the desperate need for improved ways to detect and treat disease. The idea that scientific discoveries across the globe bring us closer to improved human health is very powerful to me.
Throughout my research career I’ve been very fortunate to be surrounded by mentors and colleagues that are excited by the challenges (and yes frustrations) of scientific discovery. It’s amazingly fun to be part of a team of excited intellectuals all trying to come up with solutions to unmet medical needs, to continually learn from each other, to test new ideas (often revise them many, many times), and then disseminate your findings into the scientific community where they may inspire others. To me, discovering new science is one of the most exhilarating and enlightening things one can do and it's just plain awesome!
What are your current research interests?
As we enter this era of more personalized and precise medicine, new technologies are needed that can sensitively, accurately and non-invasively detect molecular activities within the body over the course of an individual’s entire life. My lab’s research focuses on pioneering novel molecular and cellular imaging technologies that will hopefully meet these needs. We have a particular interest in improved early cancer detection and treatment, as well as improved monitoring of state-of-the-art cellular therapies for cancer and other diseases. To accomplish this we are investigating the development of novel gene-based platforms that strategically integrate disease-specific activatable expression systems with both biofluid-based and multimodality imaging readouts. This work is at the interface of molecular and cell biology, imaging sciences, and nanomedicine and requires a multidisciplinary approach to devise innovative solutions to some of today’s most difficult biomedical problems.
What do you hope your research will mean for people's health in the future?
I hope we will be able to more precisely monitor people’s health prior to them developing symptoms, so that we can intervene much earlier when chances of recovery are best. We also strive to develop improved ways to monitor gene and cellular therapeutics on an individual basis so that clinicians are more readily informed when deciding to continue or to change therapy strategies. The ultimate hope is that my kids' generation and the generations after will be better equipped to face some of the diseases that currently plague mankind.
What are you most looking forward to as you begin at Robarts?
I’m very excited to have the chance to reach out to Robarts, Western and London scientists and trainees to learn what they are working on and how my lab might be able to help them. I’m hoping that I can start to build strong relationships with many people across London, and help continue to build the excellent reputation this city has as a leading scientific community.
When you aren't working what might we find you doing?
I spend most of my time off with my family and friends. I have a wonderful wife and two amazing daughters that keep me very busy and happy. I also love golf and have just started gardening for stress relief (weeds!).
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
I would love the ability to golf like Tiger Woods. That guy is super human.