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Insight blog

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

Behind the picture: How fly eye cells get their shape

28 Feb 2018

The main goal of the Pichaud lab at the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology at University College London is to understand how fly eye cells get their shape. But why do fly eyes matter? And how can studying fruit fly eyes help us fight cancer in humans? Franck Pichaud and Rhian Walther explain all.

Image: Fruit fly photoreceptors imaged with confocal microscope. Copyright : Franck Pichaud Lab

Image: Fruit fly photoreceptors imaged with confocal microscope. Copyright : Franck Pichaud Lab [...]

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Working life: Dr Oluwafemi Akande

21 Feb 2018

Dr Oluwafemi Akande, a Postdoc Fellow of the Africa Research Excellence Fund, began his career in a field far removed from global health research. But by combining his knowledge of building design with his interest in public health, he’s hoping to realise his passion of improving people’s wellbeing.

Dr Oluwafemi Akande

Career in brief: [...]

  • BSc and MSc in Architecture from University of Jos, Nigeria
  • PhD in Strategic Energy Management for Retrofit and Refurbishment of UK Listed Building from Anglia Ruskin University, UK
  • Postdoc Fellow of Africa Research Excellence Fund and Visiting Academic, School of Engineering, University of Leeds, UK
  • Senior Lecturer, Department of Architecture, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Nigeria.

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Taking science into school: why both sides benefit

15 Feb 2018

Colin Plumb PhD researcher at MRC CRM

Colin Plumb, PhD researcher at MRC-CRM

Science fascinates people of all ages. But for interested young people, higher education and a career in the lab can feel like a daunting and distant prospect. Colin Plumb is a PhD researcher at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) at the University of Edinburgh, where an unexpected collaboration with a local school is inspiring the next generation of researchers and even refuelling his own passion for his work.

Researchers don’t always make the best teachers. We’re prone to getting caught up in small details, which can consume our thoughts and divert attention away from the bigger picture. It’s unfortunate, because the big questions in science are often the most interesting. They’re the reason many of us were seduced by science when we began studying it in school. Helping to mentor young science students at Castlebrae High School has forced me to examine why I got into science, and I think in many ways re-learn things I had forgotten. [...]

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Working life: Professor Janet Darbyshire

8 Feb 2018

Professor Janet Darbyshire worked in medicine and then clinical trial based research from the early 1970s. Playing an instrumental role in the development of HIV treatment, she’s worked on and coordinated many clinical trial programmes in the UK and Africa. Last month we celebrated her achievements at a ceremony held within the Houses of Parliament, awarding Janet our most prestigious award, the MRC Millennium Medal. Here Janet tells us about her early memories of medicine, giraffes in Africa and the changes she’s seen her research make to people’s lives.

Career in brief [...]

  • Qualified in medicine at The University of Manchester in 1970
  • MSc in Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine 1990
  • Became head of the MRC HIV Clinical Trials Centre in London in 1989
  • In 1998 established, and became director of, the MRC Clinical Trials Unit (CTU)
  • Awarded an OBE in 1996 and a CBE in 2010 for services to clinical sciences

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Why research has a bright future in the UK

31 Jan 2018

The Rt Hon Lord Henley present Professor Janet Darbyshire with the MRC Millennium Medal

The Rt Hon Lord Henley presents Professor Janet Darbyshire with the MRC Millennium Medal

Last week we awarded the MRC Millennium Medal to Professor Janet Darbyshire, whose world-leading research on clinical trials and epidemiology has prevented disease and saved lives across the world. Here the Rt Hon Lord Henley, minister with responsibility for life sciences and Industrial Strategy, reflects on the ceremony and the importance of sustained support for scientists, scientific discovery and its translation into health and wealth benefits. [...]

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Greater use of new technology to collect data can revolutionise longitudinal studies

24 Jan 2018

Phone app measuring air quality

Dr Andy Skinner and Chris Stone believe that new technology has the potential to transform health data collection in the longitudinal community – and that there are already promising signs of this among early adopters.

In the last decade or so advances in bioinformatics have made it easier for health researchers to study people’s genetic make-up (genotype) in detail. For example, it is now possible – and has become almost routine – for health researchers to identify genes associated with specific diseases using genome-wide association studies. [...]

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10 expert tips to help you respond to peer review comments

17 Jan 2018

Most of our funding opportunities offer researchers the chance to respond to comments from peer reviewers. A well-written response can reassure the board or panel you really can do what you propose to do, and increase your chances of getting funded. MRC Peer Review Programme Manager Rachel Prosser asked board and panel members for tips on how best to respond to peer review comments.

 

writing a proposal cartoon [...]

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Sharing rare data for a common cause

10 Jan 2018

The information that gathers in our wake as we move through life and health centre or hospital waiting rooms is a powerful tool for medical research. Cecily Berryman tells us how a health emergency brought discussions about data science to the heart of her family.

Three years ago my husband suddenly became very ill. He needed emergency surgery to fix a tear in his aorta, the huge artery that carries blood as it pumps away from the heart. Afterwards the surgeon called it an ‘acute aortic dissection’ and mentioned it was likely to be a connective tissue disorder that has a genetic cause. Extensive testing revealed it was not a known disorder. [...]

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Celebrating 70 years of global health research in The Gambia

20 Dec 2017

A symposium last month, to mark the 70th anniversary of MRC Unit The Gambia, revealed how much progress has been made in global health – and how much remains to be done. Pauline Mullin, the MRC’s Partnership Communications Manager for the unit, was there to find out.

Delegates at MRC Unit The Gambia 70th Anniversary Symposium

Professor Umberto D’Alessandro, MRC Unit The Gambia Director, with delegates at the 70th Anniversary Symposium [...]

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Times are changing for technologists

12 Dec 2017

Science and technology evolve together, each pushing the boundaries to enable new discoveries and cutting-edge research. But despite the critical contributions of technology skills specialists, their roles and careers are often overlooked. Thankfully that’s changing – helped by the Technician Commitment and recent Research Councils UK statement – as Kelly Vere, Technical Skills Development Manager at the University of Nottingham and Higher Education Engagement Manager at the Science Council, explains.

Kelly Vere. Image credit: University of Nottingham

Kelly Vere. Image credit: University of Nottingham

It’s often forgotten that science is a team sport. Everyone has a part to play, including a group of staff particularly key to the majority of research teams: the technologists.

So who are the technologists?

Technologists are a crucial part of scientific research teams. They make critical, intellectual contributions to research by providing core technical excellence and by maintaining and developing new technologies and methodologies. [...]

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