The care-free student life for most young people doesn’t involve researching potentially lifesaving cancer treatments.
But there are big implications for some of the work being undertaken by the likes of Matthew Goldsworthy, who is studying medicine at the University of Leeds.
The 21-year-old spent part of last summer doing laboratory tests that involved seeing whether a specific form of light therapy had any effect on cancer cells.
His involvement in the EXSEL@Leeds research scholarship, which saw him work as part of a professional research team under Professor of Surgery David Jayne at Leeds St James’s Hospital, could have a profound impact.
It came as part of a wider programme of work looking at cancer treatment, but specifically looked at photodynamic therapy when cells are injected with a light-sensitive drug and exposed to a specific wavelength of red light.
Stereotypical lectures and lie-ins might not be the norm for Matthew, but while his hard work is a labour of love he feels he still enjoys his fair share of the student lifestyle.
“I always wanted to do a job working with people and use the knowledge and skills to have an impact on people’s lives and that’s what led me towards a career in medicine,” he said.
“I would say I have a typical medical student life, I lived in halls in first year and now live with four other medical students in a house in Leeds. It’s just typical of students in Leeds.”
Matthew found that cells did respond to the light therapy process in the lab, which will be investigated further and re-tested along the line before potentially being used on patients.
It is thought that the treatment could help people with late stage bowel cancer that has spread to the abdominal wall, saving them from risky invasive surgery which can lead to complications.
Matthew, who is from Manchester, said: “If we could find a treatment that was effective and had less of the side effects of major surgery – all the pain and extended recovery time – that would definitely be a positive thing and that’s the motivation.”
Having enjoyed working as part of the academic research group, he was inspired to follow it up by devoting the coming year to a masters of research qualification, which he will begin in September.
Working towards his goal of becoming a surgeon in the distant future, Matthew is keen to keep learning and absorbing his experiences.
“I’m really pleased to be able to be doing this kind of thing at a young age,” he added. “It’s a privilege to be in this environment with cutting edge research that could have a positive impact down the line.”
BRIGHT MATTHEW’S WORK REWARDED
The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh has recognised the work and achievements of young Matthew Goldsworthy.
The University of Leeds student was awarded the prize for best oral presentation at the organisation’s Yorkshire Medical Students Surgical Research Symposium in Bradford in June.
He spoke of his work on the light research project and was rewarded with two years’ affiliation with the college and a place on its Future Surgeon’s Key Skills course for October.
Mark Steward, the college’s regional surgical advisor for Yorkshire, said: “Matthew’s award was well deserved, and we are excited to see the findings of today being used to save lives of tomorrow.”