Dr Owen Brimijoin is a Senior Investigator Scientist at the Scottish Section of the MRC Institute of Hearing Research in Glasgow, where his research investigates the relationship between hearing and the dynamic three-dimensional world around us. He showed Jane Bunce around his shared office at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow, where his desk is no stranger to Lego.
© MRC/Douglas Robertson
© MRC/Douglas Robertson
People’s ability to tell where sounds are coming from declines with hearing impairment, and understanding speech in noisy rooms becomes harder. One in six people in the UK have a level of hearing loss that warrants a hearing aid, but they often don’t perform as well as desired. We examine this in four soundproof rooms of varying sizes, with floating floors, double steel doors and the walls covered with foam to suppress sound reflections. We use loudspeaker systems in these to control the source of the sound precisely or play multiple sounds from different directions, to simulate environments like a noisy restaurant.
Once you’re at full capacity running experiments you can’t go into the booths because they are booked up, so all the programming and testing for the next experiment has to happen here at my desk. So this is a mock-up of the system that runs the big ring of loudspeakers in one of our soundproof booths. Read more
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 at the Wali Kunda field site
To 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.
Dr Lori Passmore is head of the Mechanisms of Macromolecular Machines group in the Structural Studies Division at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB). She showed Isabel Baker around her shiny new office where she approaches biological questions using structural biology methods.
These coasters were made by a friend of mine who does glass fusing. She’s put some actual electron microscopy (EM) grids, which we use to image proteins, inside the glass. Each grid is 3mm in diameter, made of a disc of metal such as copper or gold, often with a layer of carbon on top. To use these grids in the lab, we pipette a few microlitres of protein in solution on top and remove the excess solution, leaving a thin layer containing the protein. For cryo-EM – where we freeze the samples at liquid nitrogen temperature to preserve them in the vacuum of the microscope – the carbon has holes in it. When you freeze the grid, the protein molecules are trapped in ice suspended across the holes. We then image the protein, in the suspension of ice across the grid. Read more