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Insight blog: Posts from the "From the community" Category

Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.

Taking science from the bench to policy change

17 Jul 2019

The UKRI Policy Internships Scheme gives doctoral students the opportunity to work for three months in one of a selected group of highly influential policy organisations. With applications now open for 2020, we spoke to PhD student Jonida Tafilaku from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology about her time spent at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST).

Jonida Tafilaku in her lab at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology [...]

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Thank you from your winner – Deepak!

10 Jul 2019

Throughout June, 25 MRC-funded researchers and support staff connected with 1,200 students across the UK, from Stranraer to Southampton. After posing hundreds of insightful questions to our scientists in the ‘I’m a Scientist MRC Festival Zone’ the students crowned Deepak Chandrasekharan, Clinical Research Training Fellow at MRC Harwell, our 2019 champion. Here he shares his competition experience.

Deepak

The past four weeks has been one of the most rewarding, fulfilling and thought-provoking periods I have had in science. In research, we are very lucky to get funding for our work, often from the generosity of the public via organisations like the MRC and similar charities and governmental departments. Yet, usually, the majority of our findings are communicated not to the public, but to a limited group of colleagues at a conference or in a publication. [...]

Continue reading: Thank you from your winner – Deepak!

Using ‘One Health’ to tackle AMR

26 Jun 2019

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the greatest threats to human health. That’s why, today in the House of Commons, the UKRI Cross Council AMR Initiative is speaking face to face with MPs and decision makers about their ‘One Health’ approach to the problem. But what is this approach? And what does it mean for researchers? Ruth Zadoks, Professor in Molecular Epidemiology at the University of Glasgow, tells us about this important interdisciplinary area of research.

SNAP-AMR team photo

Ruth (middle, front row) with the interdisciplinary team of UK and Tanzanian investigators working to support the national action plan on AMR in Tanzania.

Ever since Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, there have been concerns about the over-reliance on antibiotics to treat diseases. Even Fleming himself cautioned against their over-use.  Training as a vet in the Netherlands in the late 80s and early 90s, I was taught that a lack of indication is a contraindication – in other words, if you don’t have a specific reason to use antibiotics, then don’t use them. But veterinarians and medics didn’t necessarily practice what they preached. [...]

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From Max P winner to award-winning journalist

20 Jun 2019

Kirstin Leslie, MRC PhD student at the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow, won our 2017 Max Perutz Science Writing Award for her article “Can big data mend a broken heart?”. More recently, she was crowned the Association of British Science Writers Student Science Journalist of the Year. We caught up with Kirstin, who tells us how taking part in our competition sparked her science writing success.

Kirstin being awarded the Association of British Science Writers Student Science Journalist of the Year Award 2019. Image credit: Trevor Aston Photograph

Kirstin being awarded the Association of British Science Writers Student Science Journalist of the Year Award 2019. Image credit: Trevor Aston Photography

Winning the Max Perutz prize at the beginning of my PhD research ignited a passion for writing that’s been going strong ever since. I’ve written multiple articles for theGIST (The Glasgow Insight into Science and Technology – a local student science magazine) about events like Pint of Science, Glasgow Skeptics, and Glasgow Science Festival, and topics ranging from competition in academia to contraception.

Last month, the Association of British Science Writers awarded me the prize for Student Science Journalist of the Year – something I don’t think I could have achieved without that first gentle nudge toward writing about science. [...]

Continue reading: From Max P winner to award-winning journalist

Lego-powered biomedical research

12 Jun 2019

State-of-the-art technologies often come at a cost – they’re complex, expensive and inaccessible to many researchers. So, cell biologist Dr Ricardo Henriques and neuroscientist Dr Christophe Leterrier went back to basics. They’ve joined forces to create a new generation of simple but effective scientific devices – using a popular children’s building material.

'Pumpy' Lego microscopy setup. Image credit: MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology

‘Pumpy’ Lego microscopy setup. Image credit: MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology

Many of us played with Lego as children, becoming young inventors of houses, cars and spaceships. It’s an incredibly flexible material and can easily extend beyond building toys. The breadth of mechanical parts available, their low cost and their robustness – combined with their easily customisable motors – make Lego a prime material for building moving mechanical devices. [...]

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Improving the life chances of children in deprived areas

9 May 2019

The communities and neighbourhoods we grow up in have a lifelong influence on the illnesses we get and how long we live. Professor John Wright, of Bradford Institute for Health Research, is one of eight UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP) grant winners investigating wider factors, beyond the control of the individual, that impact our health. He tells us how he plans to improve the health and wellbeing of children in some of the most deprived areas across the UK.

Health is about much more than avoiding disease and living long lives – it’s about feeling well in mind and body, feeling safe, being part of a community and having things to look forward to.

The homes we live in, the design of our roads and high streets, the availability and quality of parks and green spaces and of recreational opportunities – these all have a bearing on our health and wellbeing. As do the types of shops and businesses that we’re exposed to, pollution levels and opportunities to mix with others. [...]

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The gene editing workshops tackling invisible diseases

3 May 2019

Recently, an international group of researchers met in Kolkata, India, for a workshop ran by the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases. Here, Project Officer Mags Leighton explains how the network – and revolutionary gene editing technology – is creating new ways to tackle two neglected diseases.

Kolkata workshop attendees. Image copyright: Prof Nahid Ali.

Millions of people worldwide are infected by neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 revealed that just two of these – Chagas disease and leishmaniasis – together infect over 10 million people, causing an estimated 16,000 deaths and 321,000 ‘years lost to disability’. [...]

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Running for the Dementia Revolution

26 Apr 2019

This Sunday, thousands of marathon runners will be pounding the streets of London, raising vital money for charities across the UK. Many will be powering ground-breaking dementia research by fundraising for the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) through the Dementia Revolution campaign. The UK DRI is the single biggest investment in dementia research ever launched in the UK, set up by the MRC and charity founders Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. Here, two runners with a very special connection to tackling dementia tell their story about what research means to them.

Carli Pirie – Study participant – UK DRI

Carli Study Participant

I started taking part in research because my family have a genetic mutation that results in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. We lost my nan very young and then started noticing signs in my mum.

When she was being diagnosed, I felt a little helpless and like I was out of control, so I signed up to the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network (DIAN) study. I felt that by taking part, I could give something towards the future. [...]

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Beyond the sprint: stories from the marathon runners of science

28 Mar 2019

First, we removed the time-bound criteria from our fellowship applications, to give people more time to apply after completing their PhD. Then we did the same for our New Investigator Research Grants (NIRG). Other funders have followed suit (including Wellcome and Cancer Research UK), and we know that many researchers have benefited from these changes. Here four new investigators and fellows describe the different paths they’ve followed to become independent researchers, and how broadening access to our schemes has helped them along the route. [...]

Marathon runners

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Using music as a force for change

14 Mar 2019

Could combining medical research with the arts help develop effective health interventions? Dr Cressida Bowyer, Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries at the University of Portsmouth, is figuring out how to combat harmful air pollution in a community in Sub-Saharan Africa using wonderfully creative means.

Mukuru river, Nairobi (Image copyright: Air Network).

Mukuru river, Nairobi (Image copyright: Air Network).

Air pollution is a global issue, contributing to the ill health and premature death of millions of people. Health impacts are vast, including chronic lung disease in adults and pneumonia in children. Those living in poor urban environments are especially likely to be exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution, with nine out of 10 related deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries. [...]

Continue reading: Using music as a force for change