Finding the right PhD programme can often be a time-consuming and lengthy exercise. Emre Yavuz, Translational Neuroscience Master’s student, shares his experience of applying for a PhD programme and the many challenges he faced along the way.
This September I’m going to be starting my PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL, supervised by Professor Hugo Spiers. Excited as I am about moving onto the next chapter of my career, choosing the right PhD for me was no easy process.
Choosing the right PhD programme comes down to many variables. When I had initially applied for several programmes in early December, I was excited by the possibility of travelling and living abroad after two years of lockdown. I had received interviews from places including Toronto, Montreal, Zurich, Lausanne and London. Although studying abroad seemed highly tempting at first, there were many other factors I had to take into account. (more…)
Following the publication of new draft guidance by NICE on the care and management of osteoarthritis, Dr Fiona Watt breaks down the misconceptions surrounding its impact on patients and healthcare professionals, and why developing effective treatments for the condition is more vital than ever.
8.75 million people live with osteoarthritis in the UK and the condition is the fourth leading cause of years lived with disability worldwide. Osteoarthritis commonly affects joints such as the knee, hip or hand, leading to progressive change and damage in joint tissues, frequently causing joint pain and functional difficulties. It is the leading cause of joint replacement. As an osteoarthritis researcher and someone who treats people with osteoarthritis in the NHS, I awaited the draft updated National Institute for Health & Care Excellence (NICE) guidance on the management of osteoarthritis with some anticipation. This guidance is important because it shapes (and restricts) the way that the NHS approaches advice and treatment, based on scientific evidence.
For Dementia Action Week, Kitty Murphy, second year PhD student at the UK DRI Centre at Imperial, shares the complex nature of Alzheimer’s disease and why there’s more to it than just our genes.
Dementia diagnosis rates are dropping for the first time ever. I wish I could tell you that this is due to less people developing dementia, and not because more people are living with it undiagnosed. According to research carried out by Alzheimer’s Society, many people are not being diagnosed due to the misconception that memory loss is a normal part of aging. However, memory loss is often an early sign of dementia, particularly in the most common cause known as Alzheimer’s disease. As a result, the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Action Week, an annual awareness campaign, has made diagnosis their featured theme.
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…)
Matthew Harrison provides an insight into the world of human centred design, highlighting how involving users early in the design process can allow us to tap into their expertise and find creative solutions.
COVID has changed many aspects of life permanently. One change is the way we have and will interact with healthcare services. It has put the path to remote and smart care on an accelerated trajectory. Virtual consultations, at home diagnostics, and remote sensors, tablet computers and smart speakers are increasingly part of our lives. But the rush to technology in healthcare risks leaving the demographic who most need it behind. This is a prime example of where Human Centred Design (HCD) comes in. Design is about optimising the relationships between humans and technology, whether it is the clarity of a printed communication, the impact of a building on well-being, the confidence you feel from a new outfit, or the usability (and safety) of an Electronic Patient Record.
Are loneliness and social isolation the bane of living in the 21st Century? Since the early days of 2020, national lockdowns, social distancing measures and remote working have put a bright spotlight on loneliness – one of society’s rising problems that governments can no longer overlook. Dr Austen El-Osta shares how his new project to map loneliness in London hopes to highlight the scale of the issue.
The UK Government published the first Loneliness Strategy in 2018 and has since installed a Loneliness Minister to get people talking about the problem. This cross‑governmental strategy has three goals:
Improve the loneliness research evidence base
Consider loneliness in all government policy
Build a “national conversation on loneliness” to reduce the stigma associated with loneliness
Loneliness and social isolation are significant determinants of health and quality of life. They are strongly associated with psychological disorders, cardiovascular disease and are even a risk factor for the exacerbation of early mortality. For the last few decades, increasing urbanisation and over-reliance on technology has led to the ‘atomisation’ of society – think online games, virtual reality, chat rooms, AI chatbots and the recently publicised Metaverse. There is also an increasing number of services which can be accessed online including shopping and healthcare which decreases the need, and opportunity, for “in person” encounters.
Meet Dr. Fred Nsubuga, he manages the Diagnostics Laboratory at Jinja District Hospital in Uganda. His laboratory is not equipped for HIV-1 treatment monitoring, so, when patients come in who need a viral load test, he must collect, process and store their blood samples, batch them together, then send them on a truck to the national HIV testing laboratory in Kampala, the capital city, 44 miles away. Despite the availability of this state-of-the art facility which boasts a Roche Cobas 8800™ high-throughput instrument with a good computer-based laboratory management system, it can take months for the results to get back to him. Sometimes, they go missing.
The Nutrition Society is one of the largest learned societies for nutrition in the world. In late 2019, Dr Aaron Lett led the bid to bring this student-focused conference of the Nutrition Society’s conference calendar to Imperial College London. This was the first conference the Section of Nutrition Research at Imperial has hosted and provided the perfect opportunity for Imperial to share its expertise in nutrition-related research and strong ethos and enthusiasm for student development to undergraduate and postgraduate nutrition students across the world. (more…)
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.
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…)