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Working life: Eva Hoffmann

Eva Hoffmann in her lab

Eva Hoffmann

MRC Senior Non-Clinical Research Fellow Dr Eva Hoffmann is trying to find why a woman’s risk of having a baby with a chromosomal disorder – such as Down syndrome – increases with age. Here she tells us about her working life.

I started my own lab after quite a short postdoc – three years – when I was awarded my Royal Society fellowship. I undertook this at the MRC Genome Damage and Stability Centre, now embedded within the University of Sussex. I’ve been an MRC Senior Non-Clinical Research Fellow for four years and that’s really allowed me to do more blue skies research that is paying dividends now.

Research focus

I’m interested in understanding how the information encoded in our genomes and chromosomes is transmitted accurately to the next generation.  For human health this is very important because there’s a high level of pregnancy loss associated particularly with a woman’s age. Today, more women over 30 are giving birth than in past generations – in the UK, women 35 and older account for around 20 per cent of all births. Read more

Stem cells in the classroom

Pupils using the resources in the classroom

The lessons in action (Copyright: EuroStemCell)

Not many researchers go directly into schools to teach science lessons, but that’s what Professor Ian Chambers from the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine did when he teamed up with EuroStemCell science communicator Emma Kemp. They have just published an academic paper on their experience of bringing stem cell research into schools. Here’s what they learned.

Not all schoolchildren want to grow up to be scientists, but they can be enthused about science, and equipped with the knowledge and skills to understand the relevance of science to their lives and decision-making.

Lots of adults can remember a particular time when they got the science bug. For Ian, this was a visit to a university lab aged 13. For Emma, it was her first physics teacher’s enthusiastic introduction to fundamental questions about the universe. We wanted to provide some moments like these to high school students, and we started with Ian’s old high school, the very one that had taken him on that early university visit. Read more

Wearing the gauntlet: diagnosing Ebola in Sierra Leone

How do you diagnose the Ebola virus in places that until recently had very little healthcare infrastructure? Just behind the frontlines of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, volunteers are running laboratories diagnosing Ebola cases. In late 2014 two PhD students in Professor Richard Elliott’s group from the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research spent five weeks in Sierra Leone helping to set up an Ebola diagnostic laboratory. Here Gillian Slack and Steve Welch explain their experience.

Steve Welch in his personal protective equipment

Steve in his personal protective equipment

 

As virology PhD students with backgrounds in laboratory diagnostics, we both have experience of using blood, urine and saliva samples to diagnose tropical infectious diseases. We wanted to put those skills to good use in Sierra Leone.

We were part of a group of 14 volunteers from the UK travelling to Kerry Town in Sierra Leone where a treatment centre for Ebola patients was being established.

We received intensive training at the Public Health England labs in Porton Down, where they had built a scale replica of the lab we would be using. As well as the training, we also had numerous vaccinations and medical and psychological assessments before we were cleared to deploy.

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