Blog posts

Aithne Atkinson, Research Postgraduate, Department of Brain Sciences

“No matter how far away your work is from the clinic, there is nothing more motivating than bringing patients and the public into your research bubble.” 

After completing my undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology and a Master’s degree in Cancer Biology, I chose to undertake a PhD at Imperial. Imperial is all about research, but being a researcher is not all about lab coats, hypothesis testing and data analysis. 

Although most of my time was lab-based (pre-pandemic) I have really enjoyed taking opportunities to gain insight into the clinical impact of research through patient and public engagement activities. I have helped to deliver charity lab tours and taken part in clinical trial design discussions with clinicians, scientists, patients and the public. I’ve found that no matter how far away your work is from the clinic, there is nothing more motivating than bringing patients and the public into your research bubble and talking to them about what you do! 

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Dr Thrishantha Nanayakkara, Reader in Design Engineering and Robotics, Dyson School of Design Engineering

“We use robotics to understand how animals solve survival problems in their natural environment, like how mountain goats survive on steep cliffs.” 

“I am the director of the Morph Lab. We use robotics to understand how animals solve survival problems in their natural environment. For instance, we conduct experiments on soft robotic hoofs to understand how mountain goats survive on steep cliffs. We have discovered that the hoof works like a brain to convert slips against the cliff to vibrations that automatically create a braking action. This is similar to how an automobile’s anti-lock braking system (ABS) works.   

“Before the pandemic I enjoyed demonstrating the Morph Lab’s work to the public. It is rewarding to hear people say that our work helped them to understand a complex issue.  

“I began my studies in Sri Lanka before going to Japan and the US. When the civil war ended, I returned home to Sri Lanka to set up a bio-inspired robotics lab to support landmine detection work. Before joining the Dyson School of Design Engineering at Imperial in 2017, I also worked at Harvard, MIT and King’s College London. 

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Jinata Subba, Programme Manager for the Centre of Doctoral Training in Next Generation Synthesis and Reaction Technology (CDT React), Department of Chemistry

“I’m proud of what we have achieved in the past year, in particular how we developed our recruitment process to improve our EDI statistics.” 

“I’m the programme manager for the Centre of Doctoral Training in Next Generation Synthesis and Reaction Technology (CDT React) which opened in 2019. In addition to championing interdisciplinary projects, we actively collaborate with industrial partners to bring forth industrially relevant projects. 

“Being a programme manager means that I’m a jack of all trades and the master of them all too. I’m responsible for organising the CDT React’s programme to accommodate around 12 studentship projects each year (we will take on 60 overall) to focus on future research challenges across chemistry, chemical engineering and data science. I also oversee the development of the programme to ensure that we effectively build our researchers’ professional skills e.g. research communications and research ethics. Finally I oversee the research strategy which involves communicating with our external and industry advisory boards.  

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Nana Asante Asamoah-Danso, Bioengineering Core Facilities Laboratory Technician, Department of Bioengineering

“I volunteered to serve in the NHS COVID-19 face-shield assembly project during the first lockdown.” 

“After studying Biochemistry, I worked in a few different jobs, but one day of work experience at the UCL Molecular Virology lab helped to guide me onto a science career path. I first worked as a Science Technician in a school sixth form, before joining Imperial in 2017 as a Laboratory Technician in the National Heart and Lung Institute where I supported the Myocardial Function research groups.  

“I thoroughly enjoy working within a university research lab and being surrounded by all the equipment and chemicals. As a Bioengineering Core Facilities Laboratory Technician, I provide research support for the Synthetic Biology labs and manage the departmental utility facility. I also manage the lab coat laundry services and assist researchers and other technicians. I currently deliver safety inductions for staff and students returning to the labs after lockdown. 

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Josh D’Aeth, Research Postgraduate, School of Public Health

“We looked at how the NHS could best manage capacity during peaks in infection, as well as how to optimally schedule elective care for non-COVID-19 patients” 

“I came to Imperial in 2017, after completing my undergraduate degree in Biology. During my undergrad, I’d really enjoyed learning about infectious disease evolution, so the Imperial 1 + 3 PhD programme on the epidemiology, evolution and control of infectious disease seemed ideal to me.  

“After completing a Master’s in my first year, my PhD now focuses on antibiotic resistance, looking for patterns in how it evolves and spreads through different bacterial species. In particular, I’ve focused on how interactions between species, particularly with those that don’t tend to cause disease, can be important drivers of antibiotic resistance spread.  

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Dr Johanna Jackson, Advanced Research Fellow, Department of Brain Sciences

“My EDI work includes a recent initiative using TikTok, funded by the College’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Seed Fund. 

“I actually did my PhD at Imperial and then, after gaining some postdoctoral experience, moved into industry to research Alzheimer’s disease. A few years later, I became a senior research scientist with my own group focussing on synapse loss in Alzheimer’s disease. After eight years, I decided to leave industry and move back to academia – a slightly unusual move! 

“My current role involves leading the UK Dementia Research Institute’s Multi-‘omics Atlas Project, setting up my own group and being the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Lead for the Department of Brain Sciences. MAP is an initiative to map the cellular pathology in Alzheimer’s disease in post-mortem human brain tissue. My research focus is how synapses (the connections between brain cells) are affected in the human disease and identifying ways of rescuing those that are lost.   

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Steph Martin, Test Facilitation Coordinator, Human Resources  

“I am now responsible for the coordination of a fantastic team and the delivery of up to 25 testing sessions a week, across five campuses, and seven halls of residence.” 

Graduating in June 2020 was certainly daunting as I was faced with media headlines predicting a recession ‘worse than 2007’ or ‘as great as 1929’ – depending on who you chose to believe. What everyone did agree on was that 2020 was not a good year for job seekers!  

In September, I stumbled upon an opportunity to become a COVID-19 test facilitator – a casual worker for Imperial responsible for the running of the COVID-19 Asymptomatic Test and Trace project. I quickly applied, keen to put my newfound (and extensive) free time to some meaningful use.   (more…)

Simon Herriott, Business Transformation Manager, Enterprise 

“There is much more awareness of the power of data since I started at Imperial. Data underpins everything that Enterprise is doing…” 

I manage the business transformation function within Enterprise. I oversee the platforms that we use, such as Salesforce, and create bespoke additions to improve functionality and reporting capabilities. Before joining Imperial in 2017, I worked in project management in Higher and Further Education, the NHS, and climate consultancies.  (more…)

Dr Sohag Nafis Saleh, Principal Teaching Fellow and Phase 1 Digital Development Lead, Faculty of Medicine

Part of Shifting the Lens: A celebration of cultural diversity at Imperial

“When I was four or five, I moved from Leeds to Keighley, a small town about twenty miles away. It was a challenging place to be. At the time, the National Front had a strong presence there. I didn’t encounter it a lot, but the fear was always there, and there were places around town to avoid.

“My family is Muslim, however, me and my two elder sisters went to Catholic school. It wasn’t a choice based on religion, but rather on how we as a working-class family could get the best quality state education available – something my Mum felt our local Catholic school was best at providing for us. I wasn’t properly confirmed or anything, but I was an altar boy!

“There were other schools in the area that had more Asian people and also there was a Muslim community. But I was kind of kept away from that. So for me, I didn’t have much of a cultural or religious identity growing up. I saw culture and religion as being hand-in-hand; I saw them as the same thing. My school life was this strange dichotomy of being Muslim and Catholic, but I found it really helpful because it made me learn about different religions. Quite often, when people think about religions, it’s from the outside, but here I was an outsider in two communities – two very similar monotheistic religions. But people tend to focus on the differences, I guess.”

Read Sohag’s profile

Rokshan Easwarathasan, Undergraduate, Faculty of Medicine

Part of Shifting the Lens: A celebration of cultural diversity at Imperial

“I was never ashamed of my background at school, but there weren’t many of us and I wouldn’t always be outgoing about being Tamil and from Sri Lanka. I just knew I was different.

“My parents are both immigrants from Sri Lanka, but I was born and brought up in East London. My surname has thirteen letters in it – lots of Sri Lankan people have long names – and teachers have always struggled with it or avoided it full stop. Things like that make you realise you’re different. Even my first name, some people have difficulty with it. But nowadays people want to learn how to pronounce your name properly, even more so at Imperial where there are people from so many cultures. Everyone’s welcoming. (more…)