Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
8 Mar 2017
On International Women’s Day we explore the working life of Dr Nessa Carey, International Director at PraxisUnico, Visiting Professor at Imperial College and an author. She shares her multi-career path, tips for success and the importance of saying ‘yes’ to new opportunities.
Career in brief
- Five years in the Metropolitan Police Forensic Laboratory
- Part-time BSc in Immunology
- PhD in Virology, University of Edinburgh
- Postdoc in Human Genetics, Charing Cross and Westminster Hospital Medical School
- Lectureship and Senior Lectureship in Molecular Biology, Imperial College London
- 13 years in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry
Continue reading: Working life: International Director at PraxisUnico Dr Nessa Carey
24 Aug 2016
Jennifer Lawson is the Trials Manager for the recently launched Deep and Frequent Phenotyping study looking to do the most in-depth research ever conducted to find out how Alzheimer’s disease develops. She is part of Professor Simon Lovestone’s Translational Neuroscience and Dementia Research group at the University of Oxford.
Career in brief
- Psychology BSc
- Worked at the Oxford Mental Health Trust as a Research Coordinator
- Part time Cognitive Neuroscience MSc whilst working full time at the Trust
- Managed the feasibility study that has led to this Deep and Frequent Phenotyping study
My career path has been slightly unusual. Like many of my peers studying psychology, I planned to become a clinical psychologist. So I went to gain experience working in Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, assisting with clinical trials and other research studies. [...]
Continue reading: Working life: Trials Manager Jen Lawson
12 Feb 2016
Dr Shamith Samarajiwa’s computational biology group is the newest team at the MRC Cancer Unit. His group develops multi-disciplinary data science, data engineering and computational biology solutions to understand the complex biological systems involved in carcinogenesis.
Dr Shamith Samarajiwa (Copyright: Johannes Hjorth)
Career in brief
This is an exciting time to be dealing with biomedical data. In a world poised and waiting for personalised medicine, computational biology will help us to detect cancer sooner by realising the potential of big datasets. There are millions of datasets already out there but these are completely underutilised. [...]
Continue reading: Working Life: computational biologist Dr Shamith Samarajiwa
21 Jan 2016
Majidah Hamid-Adiamoh joined MRC Unit The Gambia as a scientific officer in 2004 and has been working with the malaria research programme ever since. She talks about winning the L’Oréal-UNESCO ‘For Women in Science’ fellowship, her career so far, and her plans for the future.
(Image copyright: L’Oreal South Africa)
Career in brief
I started at the Unit working on a clinical trial for a new malaria drug. Samples were collected from patients six times per day and I was responsible for performing two-assays on each sample from four different patients – that’s 48 assays every day! It was challenging but I enjoyed every bit of it.
I am very proud of the quality of malaria research output from my department, thanks to the quality of its leaders and staff. The Unit has the right people, the right environment and the appropriate facilities to conceive an idea and be able to implement it.
Following that first project, I have continued with malaria research both in the field and in the lab. I have taken a lead role in a number of projects defining the genetic profiles, or ‘genotypes’, of different malaria ‘vectors’ – agents that carry and transmit malaria, such as mosquitos – and I am currently working on a project characterising malaria transmission in The Gambia. [...]
Continue reading: Working Life: malaria researcher Majidah Hamid-Adiamoh
14 Dec 2015
Dr Laura Palmer is the manager of the South West Dementia Brain Bank at the University of Bristol, which is part of the MRC-led UK Brain Banks Network. Here she tells us about her working life, the pressure of a part-time PhD, and why people are always fascinated by her job.
Career in brief
- Undergraduate degree in pathology and microbiology
- Eleven years at the South West Dementia Brain Bank, starting as the bank technician and becoming brain bank manager
- Part-time PhD over eight years while working at the bank
As soon as I saw a job at the bank advertised I knew it was perfect for me. It brought together my degree knowledge with my interest in dementia stemming from my grandma’s vascular dementia. I didn’t have all of the necessary experience but I was persistent and keen to learn. At the time of my interview I was working nights in a supermarket!
Things have changed dramatically in the brain bank while I’ve been here. We’ve really grown and developed – we used to accept about 12 donations a year, now it’s more like 40. Public awareness of brain donation has increased really positively.
I called my PhD the ‘never-ending thesis’. It took eight years when I’d hoped to complete it in six. I began it part-time within about a year of starting to work here, funded by a wonderful local charity called BRACE which supports a lot of the bank’s work. Balancing my PhD with my job and trying to have a life was really difficult. It’s fantastic to be able to focus solely on my job now. [...]
Continue reading: Working life: Brain bank manager Dr Laura Palmer
10 Dec 2015
Sir Brian Greenwood of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has worked in clinical tropical medicine for 50 years, reinventing field research and making discoveries that have led to sharp declines in illness and death from malaria, meningitis and pneumonia. Yesterday we recognised these achievements with our MRC Millennium Medal, and here Brian tells us about his working life, the joys and challenges of working in Nigeria and The Gambia, and why he’s most proud of the scientists he’s trained along the way.
(Image: LSHTM/Anne Koerber)
Career in brief
- Clinical training, followed by three years in Nigeria
- Wellcome Trust fellowship in clinical immunology
- Ten years in Nigeria followed by 15 years directing MRC Unit, The Gambia
- London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and many projects in Africa
- 2008 Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize for outstanding achievements in medical research
Some people thought I was throwing my career away when I went to Africa. I was a bright student and was on track to become an eminent doctor via the standard pathway when I applied for a registrar position at University College Hospital Ibadan in newly independent Nigeria. This was 1965 and the hospital was incredibly well equipped then – it was as if Hammersmith Hospital where I’d been working had been transplanted into Africa.
I spent about three years in Ibadan. The Biafran war started during this time and I went from being a junior doctor on a ward with eight doctors to having to help out in paediatrics and the emergency room as many doctors left the hospital during the war. It was a very steep learning curve. [...]
Continue reading: Working life: Sir Brian Greenwood
30 Nov 2015
Programme Leader in Biostatistics Research at the MRC Biostatistics Unit (BSU), Professor Sheila Bird OBE FRSE, has spent the past 35 years applying her statistical skills to a range of areas that have direct public health policy implications, from transplantation to prisoners’ mortality. As she retires from the MRC, she tells us about some of her research highlights, why she chose a career in biostatistics and provides words of wisdom for future biostatisticians.
Career in brief [...]
- Part-time PhD while lecturer in statistics at Aberdeen University
- Joined the MRC Biostatistics Unit in Cambridge in 1980
- Made an MRC programme leader in 1996
- Made an OBE in 2011
Continue reading: Working Life: Professor Sheila M. Bird
16 Sep 2015
Dr Donald J. Davidson is an inflammation biologist and MRC Senior Non-Clinical Fellow at the MRC Centre for Inflammation Research. Here he tells us about his working life, and why he considers communicating research just as important as doing it.
Career in brief
- Medical degree, followed by two years as a lab technician
- Self-funded part-time PhD in cystic fibrosis pathogenesis at the MRC Human Genetics Unit
- Four research fellowships, including four years in Canada
I never really mapped out my career. The main thing that brought me into science was a natural curiosity – I always want to know how things work. Planning is important, but it helps to be flexible and I’ve taken opportunities as they’ve arisen, even if they’ve seemed a little unconventional at the time. Everyone from my clinical professors to my bank manager thought I was making the wrong choice when I gave up my clinical career, but it was the correct decision.
Despite my clinical training I follow a non-clinical scientist route now. I’d really enjoyed science at school, but I felt that I should do medicine. There was lots of rote learning, I didn’t enjoy the way the course was taught, and ultimately I wasn’t convinced I wanted to be a doctor, so I left medicine when I graduated in 1992. I did return briefly to complete my clinical training in order to get a clinician scientist post – but by then I had discovered medical research science! [...]
Continue reading: Working life: Dr Donald J. Davidson
10 Jun 2015
Dr Olubukola Idoko is a clinical trial coordinator and paediatrician at MRC Unit, The Gambia. Here she tells us about a recent trial of a multi-dose pneumococcal disease vaccine, and why even the crazy hours are worthwhile.
Olubukola ‘Bukky’ Idoko
Throughout my medical training I always felt I wanted to do something with a focus on preventative medicine, impacting many people at once rather than individual patients every day. I realised this played an important role in solving health challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa. [...]
After finishing my medical training at the Jos University Teaching Hospital in Nigeria, I did some research and found that The Gambia had done well with their immunisation programmes for a small West African country. This led me to MRC Unit, The Gambia in 2010 and I’ve been here ever since.
Continue reading: Working life: Olubukola ‘Bukky’ Idoko
24 Mar 2015
Cardiologist Professor Stefan Neubauer has invented a test for chronic liver disease which could cut diagnosis time from weeks to a single day. Here he tells us about his working life and what it’s been like to set up a company to develop his discovery.
Listen to the full interview. [...]
I’m a professor of cardiovascular medicine and, in a nutshell, my job is to develop new ways to characterise the inner workings of the heart, based on magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and spectroscopy. I’m Director of the Oxford Centre for Clinical Magnetic Resonance Research, and setting up this clinical research unit from scratch – which is now recognised worldwide – has been the highlight of my academic career. But in 2012, I also took a leap into the world of industry. Together with three colleagues I founded a spin-out company based on an important discovery we made.
Continue reading: Working life: Stefan Neubauer