Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
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 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
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
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. [...]
Continue reading: Lego-powered biomedical research
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. [...]
Continue reading: Improving the life chances of children in deprived areas
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’. [...]
Continue reading: The gene editing workshops tackling invisible diseases
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
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. [...]
Continue reading: Running for the Dementia Revolution
4 Apr 2019
A technology specialist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB), Mark Skehel helps fellow scientists use powerful techniques to study proteins, alongside his own biomedical research. He describes his career spanning industry and academia, and how he’s benefited from embracing change.
Mark in his lab at the MRC LMB, holding a sample vial in front of a mass spectrometer – an instrument used to identify and measure molecules based on their mass-to-charge ratio. [...]
Career in brief
- Laboratory technician at Smith, Kline & French
- Degree in chemistry with biochemistry at King’s College London
- Higher scientific officer at the MRC LMB and PhD in chemistry
- Investigator scientist at SmithKline Beecham and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)
- Head of Protein Analysis and Proteomics at Cancer Research UK
- Head of Biological Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics at the MRC LMB
Continue reading: Working life: technology specialist Mark Skehel
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. [...]
Continue reading: Beyond the sprint: stories from the marathon runners of science
21 Mar 2019
We understand that for many researchers, making the leap to independent research can be a challenging time. That’s why we’ve been working to ensure we can provide our researchers with the support they need to navigate this process. Professor Moira Whyte, Head of the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh and Chair of the MRC’s Training and Careers Group, guides us through what we can offer to help early-career researchers in the transition.
Making the move from postdoc in someone else’s group to making your mark as an independent researcher can be a tough career stage. As noted in a recent article – The life of P.I. Transitions to Independence in Academia – early-career researchers (ECRs) face numerous barriers to securing posts, staff, time and funding. This comes at a time when they are trying to make their mark scientifically and generate the outputs that will get them recognised as leaders in their field, and we’ve heard from our own fellows, from both basic scientific and clinical backgrounds, about what a critical career stage this is. [...]
Continue reading: Transitioning to research independence
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).
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
6 Mar 2019
Professor Fiona Watt is Director of the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London and last year became Executive Chair of the MRC. Here she explains the excitement of studying stem cells, her vision for a healthier nation and why there’s no shame in failing.
Professor Fiona Watt in her office at the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London, at the top of Guy’s Hospital tower. [...]
Career in brief
- PhD in cell biology, University of Oxford
- Postdoc at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA
- Set up first lab at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, London
- Laboratory Head at Imperial Cancer Research London, now part of the Francis Crick Institute
- Deputy Director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute and the Wellcome-MRC Centre for Stem Cell Research, University of Cambridge
- Established the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London
Continue reading: Working life: stem cell scientist Professor Fiona Watt