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Working life: Richard Coward

Dr Richard Coward is an MRC Senior Clinical Fellow and Head of Research for the School of Clinical Sciences at the University of Bristol. Here he tell us about his working life from spending time with ‘beautiful’ cells to working with the pharmaceutical industry.

Richard Coward

My MRC Senior Clinical Scientist Fellowship enables me to combine clinical and basic scientific work, allowing me to continue my laboratory and research interests as well as my clinical commitment to paediatric nephrology.

I was attracted to research at the end of my clinical training. The drive to do this was because I looked after a patient who had an inherited condition called congenital nephrotic syndrome, a disorder passed down through families in which a baby develops massive amounts of protein in the urine.

Soon afterwards it became clear that the podocyte cell, a beautiful cell in the glomerulus ― the filtering unit of the kidney ― that looks like a big octopus, was involved. The gene responsible for the disorder was discovered to code for a protein located exclusively in the podocyte. Read more

At a loss: the daily challenges of a hearing aid user

Jean Straus

Jean Straus

Think that hearing aids solve all hearing problems? Think again. As the MRC and the EPSRC launch a package of funding worth £3.5m to improve hearing aid technology, Jean Straus takes us through the daily challenges of a life led with hearing aids.    

Last night I went to my local choir’s first rehearsal of the new season. I wore two high-tech hearing aids, which I have on long-term loan from a private healthcare provider. The left one addresses mild hearing loss, the right; mild to moderate.

I put these hearing aids on each morning before I put in my contact lenses or make coffee. With them I can hear birdsong, the crackling of paper, and conversations with one or two people when they’re facing me in a quiet room. Last night however, in the large vaulted hall where the choir rehearsal was held, I could follow most of the melody lines as the choirmaster, Joe, played them on the piano, but I couldn’t make out his instructions. Read more

Q&A: What it takes to be on an MRC board

Moira Whyte

Moira Whyte (Image: Academy of Medical Sciences)

It’s that time of year when we open up applications for new members of our boards and panels. Here Professor Moira Whyte, Head of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, talks to Katherine Nightingale about her experience being a member of an MRC board ― and the benefits it can have to researchers.

What has your involvement with MRC boards been?

I’ve been a member of Population and Systems Medicine Board (PSMB) for four years and I was Deputy Chair of the panel making decisions about the MRC-NIHR Efficacy and Mechanisms Evaluation Programme for five. Both of those commitments ended this year. As well as this, I’ve been involved in other activities such as evaluating stratified medicine funding calls.

How has being a board member affected your day-to-day work?

The obvious commitment is preparing for and attending the board meetings, which are held three times a year for PSMB. There is also a preliminary stage to each meeting where you read grant applications and comment on them online as part of the triage system. Some of these will be preliminary applications for large grants that the board helps shape, and others will be more standard grant applications.

The number of applications you read can vary, but it takes about a day to do the preliminary reading and then probably another day to prepare for the board meeting. Read more