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Insight blog

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

The life of an MRC Programme Manager

8 Aug 2019

Martin Broadstock

Dr Martin Broadstock, Programme Manager for Immunology and Vaccines, joined the MRC in early 2017 after 10 years as a postdoc. Here he gives an insight into what he enjoys about this wide-ranging role.

A front-row seat to cutting-edge science

As a Programme Manager, I’m privileged to be at the forefront of cutting-edge research. I’m no longer doing my own science, but by regularly speaking to researchers and reading through their applications, I learn about areas of research which could revolutionise medical science. I don’t miss being at the bench, as I’m exposed to more varied research ideas as a Programme Manager than when I was a postdoc focusing on a few projects. [...]

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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. [...]

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Recognising the mouse as an important experimental model

5 Jul 2019

Fiona Watt

Last week we published a statement about the reasons why we’re conducting a strategic review of mouse genetics. Here our Executive Chair Professor Fiona Watt provides some more information about the process.

The review is looking at long-term needs in mouse genetics that reflect the changing environment and the role of the MRC Harwell Institute. In September 2018 a face-to-face meeting of a panel of scientists with broad-ranging expertise considered the landscape, including written perspectives from a number of national and international leaders in mouse and human genetics. [...]

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MRC strategic review of mouse genetics

26 Jun 2019

As we undertake our Strategic Review of mouse genetics, our Executive Chair Professor Fiona Watt sets out the MRC position in the light of recent press activity regarding the MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit (MGU).

MRC Harwell Institute, directed by Professor Steve Brown, encompasses the Mammalian Genetics Unit and the Mary Lyon Centre. The MGU carries out academic research while the Mary Lyon Centre has world-class expertise in genetically modified mice. [...]

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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. [...]

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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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