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Insight blog

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

Profile: George Davey Smith

30 May 2012

George Davey Smith

George Davey Smith (Copyright: University of Bristol)

Professor George Davey Smith heads up not one but two MRC projects: he directs the Children of the 90s cohort study and the MRC Centre for Causal Analyses in Translational Epidemiology (MRC CAiTE) in Bristol. His career has taken him from Wales to Nicaragua, and India to Glasgow. Katherine Nightingale met George to find out about his itinerant career, cycling and a life without admin.

George Davey Smith was away on unauthorised holiday cycling around Ireland when his counterparts at Cambridge medical school were taught about epidemiology.

Returning the day before the epidemiology module test, he received some limited instruction from friends in the pub, and then did better in the epidemiology test than in other parts of the course. “I realised this was something for me,” he says. [...]

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Hope beyond hype

29 May 2012

A panel from Hope Beyond Hype (Credit: Optistem, Jamie Hall, Ken Macleod, Edward Ross and Cathy Southworth)Cathy Southworth explains why, when faced with the challenge of opening up stem cell science to the public, she turned to comic book artist Edward Ross and science fiction writer Ken Macleod. She is the Public Engagement Manager of OptiStem, an EU-funded stem cell research project based at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Edinburgh.

When I was tasked last year with developing a resource to open up the world of stem cell science to the public, I must admit my heart groaned a little at the thought of another leaflet or information page that would be lost among the mass of information on the web. We needed something eye-catching and enticing; something that would stand out, all the while ensuring that the science was portrayed accurately.

Front cover of Hope Beyond HypeThere was obviously a story to tell; a very human story about how contemporary medical treatments are brought to the clinic. How do ideas develop? How do these ideas become possibilities? How do they get tested? How do we know they are as safe as they can be? How do we decide what ‘safe’ means and who decides? These were among the many questions I wanted to address, along with including an array of characters: scientists, clinicians, regulators, ethicists and patients, to name a few. [...]

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Profile: Steve Brown

23 May 2012

Steve Brown (Credit: Noel Murphy)

Steve Brown (Image copyright: Noel Murphy)

Professor Steve Brown heads up the MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit (MGU) at MRC Harwell, which focuses on using the mouse as a model for human disease. Katherine Nightingale spoke to Steve about the international nature of mouse genetics and his own research that looks at the genes behind deafness.

Professor Steve Brown has an open door policy. “I think it’s absolutely critical for a director to be approachable. I also like to go round talking to people in the lab, finding out how the scientists are getting on,” he says.

Since becoming director in 1996, Steve has been putting his open door policy to good use, increasingly steering the unit towards international collaboration, a vital part of modern mammalian genetics.

“Many of the challenges we have in genetics right now can’t be addressed by just one institute, we need to work in large collaborative enterprises, often internationally,” says Steve. [...]

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