Category: National Heart and Lung Institute

Empowering women through the Elevat(Her) Podcast

PhD students Salina Nicoleau & Maike Haensel outline their vision for The Elevat(Her) Podcast and share the importance of highlighting positive female role models to empower other women to achieve their full potential.


Look around you – how many women are in senior positions across your university? Lucky you if you can count more than a couple. According to a recent report by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), women account for only 28% of professors in UK universities in 2020/21 (1). This is a recurring theme within many sectors, not just higher education, where there are fewer women than men in senior positions. In 2021, the number of female Fortune 500 CEOs was only 41. Yes, out of 500 CEOs, 459 were men (2).

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Tips and tricks for a successful mentor/mentee relationship

A figure of a man made from wood walking up stairs


Dr Fouzia Haneef Khan, Teaching Fellow on the MSc Genes, Drugs and Stem Cells – Novel Therapies programme,  outlines her recommendations to create an effective partnership as mentor and mentee.


Over the past seven years, I have had a variety of teaching experiences, some excellent, some awful, and some in between. Thinking about the start of my teaching journey, I remembered feeling slightly unconfident when delivering a teaching session, with a sense of doubt about whether I was reaching my potential to give the best learning experience to students. However, with the help of more experienced colleagues, I feel that I have significantly improved in these areas. These mentors have supported me on my journey by giving specific and useful recommendations about teaching strategies and general career advice.

The most important aspect of this relationship to me is that I know that I can rely on someone who is experienced in the field and has gone through similar challenges as I have. Underlying this mutual respect and trust is a feeling of genuine friendship.

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How can we manufacture the safest possible challenge agents for human infection studies?

Pipettes in a scientific lab
Dr Emma Smith—HIC-Vac Network Manager—explains how specific guidelines for the provenance and manufacture of challenge agents could make human infection studies even safer.


Human infection studies, also known as human challenge studies, are clinical trials where volunteers are intentionally given a carefully considered dose of a pathogen—known as the challenge agent. These models can be used to study host-pathogen interactions and disease progression; identify and test the efficacy of promising vaccines and drugs in development; or be used as proof-of-concept studies for testing novel medications. In this controlled environment it is possible to study infections in ways that aren’t possible in traditional field studies.

One of the first steps towards establishing a challenge study is the selection, isolation, development and production of the challenge agent. However, unlike medicines, the regulation of challenge agent manufacture varies internationally; an area that the research community has identified as a potential weakness in the field. Although human challenge studies have an excellent safety record—a recent literature review identified just 24 Serious Adverse Events (SAE) and zero deaths or cases of permanent damage among 15,046 participants in 308 studies spanning 1980 to 2021— the lack of specific guidelines for the provenance and manufacture of challenge agents warrants attention.

HIC-Vac—an Imperial-led international network of researchers who are developing human infection challenge studies—has been working with the global charitable foundation Wellcome and the company hVIVO to address this unmet need. Our purpose was to promote volunteer safety whilst maximizing access to challenge agents and challenge models globally. (more…)

Why we still need ‘Women in Science’ Awards

Paz Tayal receiving award

Dr Paz Tayal reflects on her experience in the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Rising Talent Awards.


Do we even need an award for ‘Women in Science’? Shouldn’t there be a similar award for men in science? Well, depends on how you look at it, but you could argue all awards over the past 1000 years have been for ‘Men in Science’.

The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Rising Talent Programme has promoted women in scientific research on a global scale since 1998. The L’Oréal-UNESCO UK and Ireland For Women in Science Programme offer awards from a partnership between L’Oréal-UNESCO UK & Ireland, the UK National Commission for UNESCO and the Irish National Commission for UNESCO, with the support of the Royal Society, to promote, enhance and encourage the contribution of women pursuing their research careers in the UK or Ireland. (more…)

The launch of the UK Anaphylaxis Registry and its importance for UK consumers

Dr Paul Turner, Consultant in Paediatric Allergy and Immunology at Imperial College London, and Ayah Wafi, Allergen Risk Assessor at the Food Standards Agency, introduce a new national reporting platform for allergic reactions. Funded by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) with contributions from Food Standards Scotland (FSS), the UK Anaphylaxis Registry will provide more data on levels of anaphylactic reactions in the UK.


Today sees the launch of the UK Anaphylaxis Registry at the Annual Conference of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI).

The establishment of a registry represents an important step in better understanding anaphylaxis and how allergic reactions impact individuals in the UK.

Understanding anaphylaxis

An anaphylaxis reaction is a serious, and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Whilst severe or fatal anaphylaxis is rare, food-allergic reactions due to accidental exposure are common in people with a food allergy.

Until the launch of the registry, we have not had a standardised way of reporting these reactions in the UK. The registry will serve as a platform for clinicians to record details of anaphylaxis incidents, and collate data from across the UK to provide a better picture of the type of reactions, their frequency and their geographic spread.

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From bench to bedside and back again in mesothelioma

On Mesothelioma Awareness Day, Dr Anca Nastase provides an insight into mesothelioma and how research advances offer new hope for improved treatment.


Mesothelioma Awareness Day represents a great opportunity to gain more information about the disease biology, risk factors or symptoms from everyone in the mesothelioma community. Raising awareness is essential as it has the potential to improve prevention and early diagnosis and can translate into better outcomes and better survival for the patients.

My aim as a scientist within the National Centre for Mesothelioma Research (NCMR) is to deepen the molecular research in mesothelioma and to advance our understanding of the mechanisms responsible for the onset and progression of this disease.

Although progress has been made in the field, further understanding of the pathophysiology is still desperately needed.

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that arises and develops in the thin layer that covers the human internal organs, called mesothelium.

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My health data internship experience

Maria Johnson is one of 49 interns taking part in Health Data Research UK’s (HDRUK) Black Internship Programme. Here she shares her experience of working with the BREATHE Hub at NHLI, Imperial.

Firstly, I think it is incredible that HDRUK recognises the lack of black people within health data science and has given us, interns, the opportunity to explore this sector.  Why is it important to have diversity within health data science? Increasing diversity increases the ability to fight against systemic racism and discrimination. This is an ongoing battle, and it is so important that everyone plays their part in challenging it.

During these last six weeks I, have had many experiences such as listening to various talks, working on my own projects, and meeting some amazing, knowledgeable people. (more…)

COVID and lung health: patient experience and what comes next?

The pandemic has been a huge challenge for people with lung disease – Dr Nick Hopkinson outlines what needs to change to provide them with the required support.


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a double impact on people with lung disease – both the impact of the condition itself as well as measures to avoid it on individuals and the impact on access to healthcare. COVID-19 is a respiratory infection, with people with COPD and severe asthma among those who are the most vulnerable. Many people with these conditions have spent a year shielding to avoid it.

Data from patient surveys by the Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Partnership early in the pandemic found high levels of anxiety, with four key themes emerging from survey responses:

  • Individuals’ vulnerability to COVID-19,
  • Worrying what the experience of contracting COVID-19 would be like,
  • Uncertainty about the future,
  • The inadequacy of government response.

Many patients reported that their care had been disrupted, with reduced support available and face to face appointments replaced by remote options. (more…)

A week in the life of a Clinical Research Fellow

Dr Francesca Conway takes us through a typical week as a clinical research fellow and how her previous time at Imperial contributed to her developing an interest in a career in clinical academia.


Monday

6am. I’m awakened by the horrifically jolly alarm tone on my phone. It’s still dark, it’s still raining, and it’s still cold. Hedgehogs have the right idea hibernating over winter, I think, as I haul myself out of bed.  Must consider this hibernation proposition in my next supervisor meeting. 1 shower, 1 yoghurt and 3 smoothies later and I’m in the hospital.

Today I have a patient coming to see if she is eligible to be recruited to the clinical trial which forms part of my PhD. Mrs X has travelled from 300 miles away. She greets me with a smile and tells me how pleased she is to be here. I immediately remember why I love my job, and scrap the idea of hibernation. I offer her a coffee, she gratefully accepts and whispers, could I have an extra shot in that? I assume she means coffee. I wonder what time she woke up, but am pretty sure it was before 6am.

I am researching a potential new treatment for Chronic Cbstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) for my PhD. Mrs X suffers with COPD, a disease affecting the lungs most commonly caused by smoking. More than 3 million people die from it each year. Targeted Lung Denervation or “TLD”, is a non-surgical procedure where we deliver energy to the airways using a system made by Nuvaira, a US-based company. The idea is that the energy disrupts the nerve supply to the lungs, so the airways relax and open. With initial data looking promising, we hope that this will lead to improvements in health for patients like Mrs X. More information on the Airflow website. (more…)

PhDs are Terminal, but learning will be lifelong

Image credit: Lubo Minar

As Lauren Headley-Morris nears the end of her PhD, she reflects on the experience gained and why learning won’t stop after she’s completed her terminal degree.


Terminal is a weird word. Usually heard on TV associated with cancer, you wouldn’t necessarily want a degree that is terminal. Some days I think my PhD is the best thing since the sequencing of the human genome; other days I think it might be the death of my love of science. But terminal is used in some less, erm, disastrous, melodramatic? scary? ways.

One of these less-morbid settings is travel. A PhD is, by nature, the end of the line of academic qualifications. It doesn’t mean you’ve now mastered your subject, sadly. There are post-doc positions and even professorships in the future perhaps.

I’m a third-year, Asthma UK funded, Clinical Medical Research PhD student based at the Guy Scadding Building, Royal Brompton campus. My work is focused on transcriptional regulation in asthma. While my day to day is obsessing about microRNA and things that are too tiny to see, I think it’s important to take a second now and then to sit back and reflect on the bigger picture of where my PhD fits in with my life as a whole. Maybe it’s the effect of spending so much time in isolation or maybe, coming to the end of my formal academic training, I’m getting a little philosophical. (more…)