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Kristen selfie smiling to camera with sea behind her.

Following my dream of becoming a scientist

Kristen Hawkins

Hi! I’m Kristen, a PhD student at Swansea University. I'm here to tell you a bit about my work in MS research.

I’ve always loved science. I was one of those nerdy kids with their home chemistry kit, trying not to let anything explode in the kitchen. But I always knew I wanted to study biology, because it would mean I’d be helping people.

My aunt has progressive MS and I’ve seen how it affects both her and our family. I want to help find a way for her, and the rest of the MS community, to live their lives free from the effects of MS.

Trying to solve the puzzle of statins and MS

As a PhD student, I spend my days trying to uncover more about what drives MS. The more we can understand about what causes MS, the more we can do to help prevent and treat it.

In 2014, a clinical trial showed that treatment with statins (cholesterol-busting drugs) might be helpful in the treatment of progressive MS. We don’t understand exactly how they might be doing this yet, so my research is focused on trying to figure that out.

I love research – every day is different! I get to meet lots of people personally affected by MS. We run open-days in our lab, so that people with MS and their families can get up close and personal with the research that is happening now.

When an experiment doesn’t work the first time it can be frustrating, but we celebrate the little successes on the way to achieving our bigger goals.

Medical genetics on the Welsh coast

I did my undergraduate degree at Swansea University because it was one of the best universities to study Medical Genetics. And, as a bonus, I got to live by the sea!

I am now lucky enough to work with leading experts in MS at Swansea. Like my supervisor, Dr Owain Howell. He has an amazing amount of knowledge about MS and has inspired me to learn as much as I possibly can.

Our lab works closely with other MS research groups at the university, MS consultants from a local hospital, and the MS Register, a unique initiative that’s based at Swansea as well. Many brains are better than one!

Outside research, I enjoy going to gym classes and walking by the sea. And I love spending evenings laughing with friends over a cuppa until the earlier hours.

A massive thank you to MS Society supporters

The MS Society fund my research. Without their support – and everyone who supports them – research like ours would not be possible. It is my absolute pleasure to be part of the mission to stop MS.