Month: August 2017

What have S&C people been getting up to this summer

Thanks to all who entered the Surgery and Cancer competition to find out what people have been getting up to over the summer:

Ash Salem (National Phenome Centre)
Celebrating Brighton and Hove Pride 2017 with my best mate and glorious sunshine.

Karen Kerr (Division of Surgery)
Day 1 of 5 kite surfing lessons in Tarifa, Spain, officially one of the windiest places I have visited. Who’d have thought you have to learn to fly the kite first before they let you loose in the water. Fair to say I am now an expert ‘body-dragger’ and at ‘supermanning’…..may not ever need to get on the board, it’s so much fun without, albeit extreme!


Rose Tolson (CSM)
I entered a karate comp in May, where I won silver in kata in the female senior grade division. I enter my next competition in November and am hoping for gold!

Kelly Gleason (CRUK Senior Research Nurse)
I went into a local school on two occasions this summer with a PhD student Neil Slaven and a chemo therapy nurse to talk to the children about what scientists and nurses do and how research informs care. Both the scientist and the nurse presented and then we extracted DNA from strawberries. The children then drew pictures and sent messages to our patients undergoing cancer treatment and 9 of those drawings will be framed on the wall on the ward.

Marc Dumas (CSM)
I took part in one of the biggest offshore racing competitions (the Fastnet race: non-stop from Cowes to Plymouth via the Fastnet lighthouse, a rock which is just south-west of Ireland, with over 360 boats) earlier this month. It’s every other year and I haven’t missed one since I got back to the UK. Lots of similarities in terms of team building between crews and research groups, leadership on the water and in the lab, or running computer models for medicine and weather forecast…

Kathryn Johnson (Departmental)
I spent a week volunteering on Skomer Island in Pembrokeshire where I spent my days narrowly escaping getting attacked by gulls, having to stick my arms down Manx Shearwater burrows to pull out and weigh the chick’s and spent a great deal of my time as a lollypop lady for puffins.

Breast Cancer Research as Art

PhD student Ylenia Perone won third prize in the Research as Art competition for the Luca Magnani’s lab entry entitled “Drug driven tumour evolution” at this year’s Graduate School PhD Summer Showcase event, which celebrates the research being carried out by the College’s PhD students. The lab’s entry illustrates the different cellular response to the different drugs in artistic form and comes out of the lab’s new research, published in Nature Genetics this January. Below Ylenia describes the research behind the image.

“The hands represent different patients; one has no amplification of the aromatase gene (drawings on the right hand) and one has been offered a type of drug (white pill) that is different from the one (orange pill) being given to the patient that created more copies of the gene (intensified branched drawings on the left hand). With our research, we demonstrate that the choice of therapy has a fundamental influence on the genetic landscape of relapsed tumours. This is why we need to find a way to identify an increase in aromatase gene, early enough that women can be switched to a different drug therapy program before their cancer returns.”

Find out more about the breast cancer research happening in Dr Luca Magnami’s Lab.


Learning the Art of Communication

Jerusa presenting her abstract next to Professor Waljit Dhillo from Imperial College

On 12th – 14th July PhD student Jerusa Brignardello attended the 8th National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Infrastructure Doctoral Research Training Camp titled the Art of Communication. The specific aim of the event was to equip delegates with the skills and ability to successfully defend and communicate their research effectively with a range of people including fellow scientists, research funders, the media, patients and the public. Jerusa talks about her experiences of the training and why communication is so important.

“I believe that communication skills are essential to disseminate and communicate our research to different audiences, to make it accessible and understandable for everyone, also previous fellows who’d attended strongly encouraged me to participate. I learnt more communication skills, about how to deal with different types of media in different communication scenarios like TV, radio, simulated NIHR interview panels.”

“I’m working with samples from an NIHR project of one my supervisors Dr Isabel Garcia-Perez so was eligible to apply and after submitting my abstract to the Clinical Academic Training Office (CATO) I got a place to represent Imperial. I was selected to give an oral presentation at the event for which I received a Highly Commended MPHrp Presentation Award for my abstract called “The effect of dietary patterns on short chains fatty acids (SCFA) concentrations: A targeted approach.”

Jerusa receiving her diploma next to Dr Tony Soteriou, Head of Research Faculty Infrastructure and Growth, Science, Research and Evidence, Department of Health- NIHR and Dr Lisa Cotterill, Director, NIHR Trainees Coordinating Centre

“In my PhD thesis, I’m studying how the consumption of different dietary patterns as healthy, unhealthy, vegan and omnivores are influencing the production and metabolism of diverse metabolites in the human body. I presented my preliminary data about short chains fatty acids (SCFA), which are the end products of microbial fermentation that play a key role in health and disease. My preliminary results have shown that these compounds can be modulated by diet and their production varied during the day.”

Why is communicating your research so important?

“Science communication is fundamental in all research fields and researchers are more exposed to media than before. This means that it is imperative to be trained properly to communicate effectively and make our work accessible to the public. Scientific experiments provide one small part of a puzzle that may help to explain one scientific problem. However, it is common to see scary headlines or panacea solutions for health problems in the tabloids or on TV. This is a serious issue, research distortion is a threat that can affect our scientific credibility generating a vicious circle of controversies and sneers between researchers and public.”

“In my field, nutrition is a topic commonly misused to engage susceptible people to believe in bogus diets without any scientific evidence behind it. For example, the case of the alkaline diet for the treatment of cancer. Science communication can solve and prevent this type of myths, providing an understanding of science that has to be extended to the society. Later on, science communication can help to bridge the gap between.”