1. Tell me in 5 words who is Ferran Fece de la Cruz?
Catalan, a freedom fighter, a dreamer, a traveler, a food lover.
2. What made you join CeMM?
As any other millennial, our lives have been shaped from one crisis to another. When I decided to carry out a PhD, the world was immersed in what they called the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression. The journey to complete a PhD requires a lot of sacrifice, but at least I wanted to be fully supported and economically independent. That’s how I started being interested in international PhD programs which are usually better organized, prepare you for a successful career and tend to give more support to PhD students. The international PhD program at CeMM was among the first ones I found and the research topics in 2 or 3 labs there matched my interest immediately. I sent my application and the rest is history.
Another important point for me was where I wanted to live. There are excellent PhD programs across Europe in research institutes or universities located in relatively small towns. I knew that was not for me, I need everything a large city or a capital provides. Having a life beyond working on your PhD is something you should never forget and a small town during my twenties was not something to be considered.
3. What is it about science that interests you the most?
What interests me the most is the opportunity to improve people’s health and contribute to establish more effective treatments for human diseases. Since my first year in college I knew that my focus would be on cancer research. It’s astonishing the tremendous amount of novel therapies developed in the last 15 years. As an example, when I started my PhD at CeMM a decade ago, mutant KRAS was the paradigm of an undruggable target in cancer therapeutics. Last week, the FDA granted approval of the first KRAS inhibitor for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer. What a terrific time to work in the field!
4. What is the best career advise you ever received, or you can give to the CeMM community?
Someone who I have actually met only once told me “know who you are and what you want by the age of 35”. Somehow that sentence has been stuck in my mind for nearly 10 years. I have reached that point in life and I could say that I 90% agree with that statement. However, never stop reinventing yourself, learn new skills/hobbies, be wild and keep having fun.
As for your next step in your career, you may ask a thousand people how to cross a river, but ultimately you will need to get into the water and find your way.
5. Tell us what happened to you after you left CeMM?
Towards the end of my PhD the lab moved to Oxford, where I spent some time giving the final touch to my doctoral thesis. After dissolving all political connection between me and the State of Great Britain, it was only natural to move to America. Three years later I can say I found a new place to call home in Boston. I am currently a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Prof. Ryan Corcoran where I continue exploring new ways to treat cancer, with a focus on gastrointestinal malignancies. The American Dream doesn’t exist anymore, but I definitely feel lucky with the amount of opportunities, freedom and support my position at the Massachusetts General Hospital is providing for my career and personal development.
6. What book do you have on your night table at the moment?
“The struggle in exile”, by former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont. In a strange turn of events, I left my country and moved to Boston the same week he went into exile to Belgium. It’s important to remember who we are and where are we coming from, particularly when life takes us far from home.
7. What is the last song you heard?
“Nôs Funaná” by Dino D’Santiago always helps bringing back memories, when we were allowed to travel and discover new cultures, languages and music.
8. Any message you would like to give to the CeMMies or a former colleague?
Enjoy that terrace for as long as you can! All jokes aside, make the most of your time at CeMM. As in any other place, stay the right time for you: there’s only so much you can learn in one place. And when you finally make the move, don’t forget you will easily find a CeMMie no matter where you go. Stay in touch!
Ferran’s adventures at CeMM started back in 2010 when he joined the lab of Sebastian Nijman as a PhD student. He spent five years growing up as a scientist and learning from the CeMM spirit, which definitely defined who he is today. Currently, he is a postdoctoral research fellow in the lab of Ryan Corcoran at MGH Cancer Center and Harvard Medical School (Boston, USA). In his present position, he is committed to developing new and effective therapies for gastrointestinal cancers.