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Posts from the ‘Posts’ Category

What’s in a work space? Musa Jawara and his marriage to mosquitoes

Entomologist Musa Jawara has worked at MRC Unit, The Gambia for three decades, investigating mosquito behaviour, malaria transmission, and control methods, including pioneering work in transmission-blocking vaccines and the development of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) for malaria prevention. He showed Isabel Baker around his work space at Wali Kunda, on the banks of the River Gambia, where he catches, breeds and dissects mosquitoes, and tries not to catch malaria in the process.

Musa Jawara stands next to sign at the ali Kunda field site

Musa Jawara at the Wali Kunda field site


‘Pooter’ pipe

Senior technician Lamin Camara demonstrates a pooter pipeTo study and understand malaria epidemiology and control you must look at the parasite, the host and the vector. I focus on the vector ― the mosquito ― and try to understand how to prevent it from transmitting malaria by learning about its behaviour.

To study mosquitoes, we have to catch them first! One way is using this simple device called an aspirator (or pooter) ― a glass or plastic pipe with a rubber tube attached at one end and a filter to block the passage of mosquitoes into the tube. You point the tube towards the mosquito and suck gently to avoid crushing the insect.

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What do we mean by experimental medicine?

Earlier this month we launched the call for our third round of Experimental Medicine Challenge Grants. But what exactly do we mean by experimental medicine, and why is now a good time to be doing such research? Professor Stephen Holgate, Chair of our Translational Research Group, explains.  

A researcher analysing fMRI data

(Image: NIMH on Wikimedia Commons in the public domain)


Medical research would be very different without models of health and disease. We use cells, tissues and animals to determine what healthy biological processes look like, how they change with disease, and to test new interventions.

Traditionally, we made discoveries in models and then, once it was appropriate, tested potential interventions in people. All kinds of models are used, from cells in dishes to macaque monkeys.

Cell and animal models will continue to be a cornerstone of medical research, but it’s time to start experimenting in another important model organism: humans. What could teach us more about human health than the human body itself? Read more

Every scientist has a voice

Should researchers wait until they’re senior before talking about science in public? No, says Michaela Mrschtik, a PhD student at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, every scientist can make a valuable contribution.

Michaela Mrschtik

(Copyright: Michaela Mrschtik)

I started a PhD in cancer research because I am passionate about science and I want to help improve people’s lives. I hope that my research will have a positive impact on cancer treatments someday, but I have discovered that bench work is not the only way for scientists to make a meaningful contribution to society.

Every scientist has a voice, but we often don’t make use of it in public. It’s part and parcel of a scientific career to share exciting findings and talk about science with other scientists, but relatively few researchers do so in non-academic settings. Why?

In my case, I simply didn’t have the confidence. I had started writing for a student-led science magazine at my university and I had helped out at a few public engagement events in my institute. Still, I felt that as a researcher I was too young, too inexperienced and simply not senior enough to make a case for science in public. Read more