This article was first published in the Spring edition of Network.
Janet Lane-Claypon pioneered two research methods that today are central to epidemiology, but she doesn’t have the profile of other barrier-breaking female scientists from the first quarter of the 20th century.
Katherine Nightingale spotted her…Read more
The complex and destructive nature of war has been a catalyst for some of the MRC’s greatest medical discoveries over the past century. Sarah Harrop reports.
The great war: infections and ingenuity
When the First World War broke out in 1914, the MRC was barely a year old, but it reacted quickly to focus research on the national war effort. Gangrene, caused by bacteria which thrive in oxygen-free conditions such as soil, was a particular problem for men fighting in the muddy trenches of France and Belgium during WW1. This horrifying condition causes living tissue to decay and die and was responsible for many limb amputations and deaths in soldiers whose wounds had become infected. But by the eve of Armistice Day in 1918, MRC researchers had managed to develop the first serum for the prevention and cure of wound gangrene, which contained anti-toxins against all three bacteria involved.
Desperate times also fuelled ingenuity. Ships bringing home the wounded had poor sanitary conditions, but antiseptics were in short supply. With MRC funding, British chemist Dr Henry Drysdale Dakin managed to work out a cheap way to produce large quantities of an antiseptic from sea water. ‘Dakin’s Solution’ reduced secondary infections in repatriated soldiers to almost zero. Read more
Andrew Bastawrous, an eye surgeon at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, won last year’s Max Perutz Science Writing Award with an article explaining the importance of his research developing smartphone apps for checking eye health. As we launch this year’s competition, Andrew explains what winning the award did for him, and provides a few tips for budding writers.
Why did you enter the Max Perutz Science Writing Award?
A fellow PhD student at the university sent me the link and suggested I should apply. It made sense to write an article explaining the project in non-scientific terms as I was always being asked by friends and family what it was that I was doing. This was the perfect opportunity to distill my thoughts into a form that could be understood by everyone and that I could direct people to if they were interested. I never expected to end up winning the competition.
How did taking part in the competition and winning the award change your thoughts about science communication?
Having to sit down and write something without jargon made me look at my work in a different light. Trying to see something you are deeply involved in from a more distant and very different perspective can be quite challenging, but very refreshing. The question set to us was, “Why does your research matter?” Getting to the heart of that question meant engaging with the emotion that drives the work in the first place.
The whole process has made me appreciate good writers and their ability to present complex information in an engaging way. It has also encouraged me to write about the everyday scientific work I’m doing in Kenya in a manner that can be understood by friends and family. Read more
Copyright © 2013 Medical Research Council. Creative Commons - Attribution.