Professor Gareth Jenkins has seen many developments at the University having started here as a PhD student in 1993. Now Director of Research at Swansea University Medical School, he has recently published his 100th paper on seminal research which details how in the future, oesophageal cancer could be diagnosed with a £30 blood test.
Professor Jenkins said: “Many researchers will produce more than 100 papers during their careers, but I thought it was a nice coincidence that my 100th paper came out as Swansea University was preparing to celebrate its own centenary in 2020.
I started out at Swansea investigating DNA mutations for my PhD. The thrust of my career to date has been trying to develop new ways of measuring those DNA mutations.”
Professor Jenkins' work plays a key role in maintaining the University’s reputation, especially as it prepares for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021.
In the REF 2014 Swansea University was ranked 23rd in the UK and the Medical school was ranked 2nd in Unit of Assessment 3, for the quality of its research. Some of that success is down to research into mutations carried out by Professor Jenkins and his colleagues, including Professor Shareen Doak who leads the University’s In Vitro Toxicology Group. Together they have been at the forefront of work to develop lab-grown human cells to use when studying whether test compounds cause mutations and their link to cancer. This work aims to study mutation in human models rather than use animals for testing.
As one of the pioneers of the University’s Medical School, Professor Jenkins is delighted to have played a part in its remarkable growth and now has an office in the ILS building he helped to design.
“After I completed my doctorate, I considered leaving Swansea, but the Medical School was about to start and I could see this was going to be a big development with great opportunities for future research,” he said.
“When I was a PhD student in the Genetics department at Swansea there were 20 of us, now the Medical School has 200 PhD students. It has seen enormous growth in a relatively short space of time and we’re proud we can provide great opportunities for research.”
For Professor Jenkins, it always has been, and always will be, the research, and an endless passion for innovation and discovery that forms the essence of a University: “Research is all about being open-minded. You can’t plan very far ahead, you have to go where the scientific interest takes you. Although my role in the Medical School has changed, my enthusiasm for the research is still the same. The thought of coming in and seeing the students and what their latest experiments show – that’s what brings me to work in the morning.”