Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
26 Oct 2018
Congratulations to MRC PhD student Natasha Clarke, from St George’s, University of London, winner of our 2018 Max Perutz Science Writing Award. In her award-winning article she describes how teaching machines to detect changes in language could help with early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Award-winner Natasha (centre) with other shortlisted entrants (behind), judge Andy Ridgway
(front row left), MRC Executive Chair Professor Fiona Watt who chaired the judging panel
(front row, second from right) and Professor Robin Perutz, son of Max Perutz (front row right).
I’d like to give you a quick task. How do you make a cup of tea? Describe it out loud. Whilst this could lead to some controversies (milk in first, or last?) it seems fairly simple. But what if I told you that this task could help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease? [...]
Continue reading: How artificial intelligence, and a cup of tea, could help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease
15 Aug 2018
Are you interested in coming along or taking part in next year’s MRC Festival of Medical Research? Deborah Barber explores some 2018 highlights and shares tips learnt along the way for making public engagement a success.
For the last three years we’ve kicked off our summer with the MRC Festival of Medical Research. This year, over 10 days in June, 43 events were held by MRC institutes, units and centres, and teams of MRC grant holders. [...]
Continue reading: MRC Festival: Bringing research to life
19 Jul 2018
Last month, 25 MRC-funded researchers and support staff connected with over 1,400 UK school students online, in the first ever ‘I’m a Scientist MRC Festival Zone’. Over four weeks, our plucky scientists responded to thousands of questions from students, who then voted for their favourite answers. Here our winner Liza Selley, from the MRC Toxicology Unit, tells her tale.
“If a car travels at infinite speed, what evidence can you use to prove it was there?”
There stands my favourite question from the MRC Festival’s I’m a Scientist competition. A prime example of the imagination and inquisitiveness with which children explore the world around them. Of how commonplace thoughts mix with the abstract, and how no question appears unanswerable. [...]
Continue reading: I’m a Scientist…Get me out of here!
30 Nov 2017
As a runner-up in our 2017 Max Perutz Science Writing Award, PhD student Sophie Quick, of the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, explains why her research – focused on a condition called small vessel disease which can cause dementia – matters.
Strawberry picking might not seem like the place for scientific inspiration, but on a warm summers day just weeks into my PhD, I returned not just with a punnet of Scotland’s finest fruits but a new take on my research. Sheltered by a gently flapping plastic roof I bent to pluck a handful of ripe berries, spotted fine tubes running along the soil and was struck by an idea. [...]
Continue reading: Watering the strawberry fields of the mind
22 Nov 2017
A runner-up in our 2017 Max Perutz Science Writing Award, PhD student Lara Morley of the Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine describes how she’s looking for ways to treat a failing placenta, by increasing the blood supply to the baby in the womb.
With the emergency buzzer still ringing in my ears, I feel my adrenaline subside as I bring a much anticipated new life out into the world and into the arms of its anxious parents. After all, the outcome of a pregnancy has profound implications for the lives of us all; ourselves, partners, sisters and friends. But in all the excitement of welcoming a baby into the world, the vital job of the placenta is often overlooked. [...]
Continue reading: At the placenta of everything
7 Nov 2017
In her runner-up article for our 2017 Max Perutz Science Writing Award Nadine Mirza, a PhD student at the University of Manchester, explains why changes are needed to a routine test for diagnosing dementia, unbiased by language or culture, to prevent incorrect diagnoses.
Have you heard the saying “No ifs ands or buts”? Associated with grannies and teachers, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t. It’s also a saying used in the ACE, a test implemented across the UK to detect dementia. An individual has to read the saying out loud with correct pronunciation. When directly translated into Urdu it loses meaning and becomes gibberish and reading out gibberish isn’t a smooth task. Even a fluent Urdu speaker might fail. But would we attribute that to dementia? Apparently, yes. [...]
Continue reading: Avoiding gibberish when assessing for dementia
26 May 2017
Nowadays few people would dispute that it’s important for people to know about medical matters, but that wasn’t always the case. While our Max Perutz Science Writing Award is open to MRC-funded PhD students, Katherine Nightingale looks back at Charles Fletcher, MRC researcher and physician, whose strong belief in medical communication led him to become the first ‘TV doctor’ in the 1950s.
You don’t notice it at first – your eye is drawn instead to the strangely bandaged faces of the people to the left of the image. But there, together with the IV stand, scissors and scrubs, is not a piece of surgical equipment but a 1950s television camera and lights.
What’s it doing there? Filming a medical drama? Broadcasting the television news live from a hospital? Not quite. Instead it’s the filming of Your Life in Their Hands, a controversial medical documentary which began in 1958. [...]
Continue reading: Behind the picture: Charles Fletcher as the first TV doctor
3 Mar 2017
Frustrated by the lack of images to illustrate the mind, Dr Rhys Bevan-Jones, Clinical Research Fellow at the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, decided to create his own. Here he describes the story behind this picture, where the worlds of psychiatry and art collide.
Copyright: Rhys Bevan-Jones
One of my friends once told me that he saw the mind as a senate. He described it as a place where the issues of the day are discussed by lots of little people and organised by the main debater in the middle. So that’s what I drew (see middle-right of the picture).
This gave me the idea of asking more people how they saw their mind, or different aspects of the mind. I received a variety of responses. My hairdresser, for example, sees the mind as a series of little post boxes (middle-bottom). There’s a little person who receives the messages – visual and auditory – inside the head. They post and categorise each of the messages into different post boxes, based on the emotional content. [...]
Continue reading: Behind the picture: Metaphors of the mind
24 Oct 2016
SUSTAIN is a year-long programme of training, mentoring and peer networking for women in science. With the programme now open for new applicants, clinician and researcher Dr Alessia David gives us her experience of SUSTAIN.
I joined the SUSTAIN programme at a crucial moment in my career. It was during the final year of my MRC fellowship and I was due to make major decisions about my next steps. I was feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of delivering high-quality research, building a successful career in a competitive environment and raising two little children. [...]
Continue reading: SUSTAIN: a programme for women researchers
14 Oct 2016
Liza Selley won the Max Perutz writing prize 2016. Liza is a PhD student at Imperial College London studying the negative effects of brake dust emissions on human health and the economy. Here she shares her winning essay explaining why her research matters.
It’s been splashed across the papers – traffic pollution is a menace. Striking 30,000 of us each year with heart disease, respiratory illnesses and lung cancer, vehicle fumes kill four times as many people as car accidents and hospitalise a great many more. [...]
Continue reading: Braking perceptions of traffic pollution