Blog posts

I can’t wait until I’m no longer waiting for the first Black scientist to win a Nobel Prize

The Wise Women

This festive period Three Wise Women from the Faculty of Medicine will be giving us the gift of their wisdom.

Our first wise woman, Faith Uwadiae, highlighted success stories of Black scientists on her Twitter account every day throughout Black History Month 2018. In this post, she tells us what led to her taking action. 


The problem

I have been in the university academic system for almost a decade and in this time I have interacted with very few Black scientists. I have met a handful of Black PhD students and research assistants or technicians, one postdoctoral scientist, but sadly I’ve never been lectured by a Black scientist. When I attend scientific conferences or events I am frequently one of the few Black people in the room and often the only Black woman. In fact, Black professors are heavily underrepresented making up just 0.6% of UK professors, of which only 25 are Black female professors. Sadly, when people think about a scientist they don’t picture someone like me, i.e. Black, female and young, and instead default to the White, male and old archetype.

Scientists are much more diverse and I wanted to learn more about the stories of people like me. (more…)

World AIDS Day at 30: where are we in the fight against HIV/AIDS?

World AIDS Day 2018

Dr Kirk Taylor looks back at over 30 years of the HIV epidemic, from the advent of preventative therapy to the impact of HIV stigma that continues to plague forgotten populations.


Thirty years on from the first World AIDS Day we have seen enormous global progress towards ending the epidemic. The change that has happened within my lifetime is astonishing; HIV has gone from being a death sentence to a manageable condition with strategies to prevent transmission altogether. This World AIDS Day, I highlight the milestones achieved and where there is still work to do. (more…)

NHS England’s plans to cut prescribing for low-value items: well-intentioned but poorly implemented

Professor Azeem Majeed shares his take on the realities of NHS England’s proposed ‘do not prescribe list' for primary care.
Professor Azeem Majeed shares his take on the realities of NHS England’s proposed ‘do not prescribe’ list for primary care.


This week NHS England (the organisation responsible for managing the NHS in England) announced plans to curb the prescribing of ‘low-value’ items. This includes items such as silk garments, and bath and shower emollient for eczema and dermatitis. The plans follow on from earlier guidance issued by NHS England that aimed to limit the prescribing medications that are available over the counter, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.

At a time when the NHS faces unprecedented workload and funding pressures, health professionals and the public all recognise the need to make the most efficient use of the resources available to the NHS; and prioritising key clinical areas such as cancer care. Prescribing costs in primary care, currently around £10bn annually, are a key component of the NHS budget in England. It is therefore entirely appropriate to look at this area to see where savings can be made without compromising patient care. (more…)

Back down to earth: From astrophysicist to desk-bound medical scientist

In this post, Dr Sujata Sridharan shares her career path, from graduating with an astrophysics degree to being a postdoc in brain imaging.


I’m not a scientist, not really. At least, that’s what I’ve heard countless times from my non-academic friends, and sometimes even colleagues. I’ve deduced that this belief dates back to my decision to take an MPhys in Physics with Astrophysics as my undergraduate degree.

Physics first

As a (comparatively) fresh-faced 18-year-old, I undertook my first degree at the University of Manchester, (somewhat naively) under the impression that astrophysics involved a lot of actual stargazing. My first year was a pleasant 60:40 split of lectures and laboratory-based work. Albeit the latter was rather generalised; at one point I remember making a hologram of a bronze Buddha statue for no apparent scientific reason. My main concern at that point was that I hadn’t yet bumped into Brian Cox, who had recently taken up teaching duties at the university in between – what we physicists considered – glamorous filming of the ‘Wonders of the Universe’ documentary series. (more…)

Building a heart, one cell at a time

Dr Michela Noseda took cardiac cells to the stage at her recent TEDx talk on how scientific approaches she uses can help us understand how to beat one of the biggest killers of our time – heart attacks.


Heart attack (myocardial infarction) remains the foremost killer worldwide. The prevalence remains high despite the fact that we have been reducing risk factors; stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet and exercising. In fact, the persistence of myocardial infarction as the most frequent cause of death is related to an ageing population and the move of people towards big cities. (more…)

Immune cell diet – a cure for asthma?

 

Gesa Albers was shortlisted for the MRC Max Perutz Science Writing Award 2018 for the following article on her PhD project studying how the metabolism of macrophages differs between asthmatic and non-asthmatic people.


You are on a holiday with a good friend walking along a path enjoying the stunning view and the beautiful scenery along the river. Suddenly, your friend starts coughing. He might have inhaled dust from the dry pathway. You stop to give him the water bottle from your backpack. The water does not help the coughing. He wheezes every time he breathes and you start panicking when you see that his face is getting paler and paler.

“I cannot breathe!” he says while wheezing.

You want to help him but you do not know what to do. What does he need? Do you have to call an ambulance? As the coughing and wheezing does not stop, you decide to call the ambulance. With shaking hands, you type in the number and call the paramedics. (more…)

Going with our guts to find new treatments: faecal microbiota transplantation at Imperial

Dr Ben Mullish and Dr Julie McDonald explore the ins and outs of faecal microbiota transplants – it may sound unpleasant but this procedure is proving to be an effective way of treating chronic gut infections.


Most of us can name (or may have had first-hand experience of) a number of different bacteria that can cause serious gut infections, such as Salmonella or Campylobacter.  However, what is less well-known is that we also have billions of bacteria living in our guts that normally do us no harm at all.  Some actually have important contributions towards our health – including prevention of bacterial pathogens entering our gut and causing infections.  Collectively, this huge population of microorganisms living inside our digestive tracts is often referred to as the ‘gut microbiota’.  If anything happens to us that disturbs or kills off members of this gut microbiota – such as exposure to antibiotics, or surgery – then we have greater vulnerability to gut infections, and particularly from a form of bacteria called Clostridium difficile. (more…)

I don’t care about YOU: why sharing your electronic healthcare records with researchers shouldn’t be scary

medical records

As healthcare becomes high-tech with electronic healthcare records widely used, Eleanor Axson provides an insight into the power of medical record data for researchers. 


When I was little, going to my GP meant seeing a manila file being pulled out from a mass of identical looking files and watching her write down my measurements and test results. The file grew as I did, each year adding to my entire medical history. All in one manila folder.

Things have changed. There is no longer a manila folder growing steadily right alongside me; rather, I watch my GP click and type all my medical history into a computer. Electronic healthcare records (EHR) have irreversibly changed our doctor-going experience and they are certainly here to stay. Your electronic healthcare record contains all the information your old paper one did. Demographics, vital statistics, diagnoses, medications, medical tests, etc. (more…)

Why curing breast cancer isn’t a piece of cake

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr Luca Magnani unravels the complexity of cancer research, from recent advances in genomics to the power of patients in research. 


In today’s fast-paced world in which everything quickly rotates, spins loudly for your clicks and sights, deciding where to focus our attention is a decisive factor. When trends come and go at lightning pace, it is somewhat surprising that October is still Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I’m glad we can still manage to stop and reflect on what this means. Last year we discussed how Breast Cancer Awareness Month has evolved in the era of social media and marketing. This year I thought we could be more optimistic and discuss when October becomes ‘tea and crumpet’ appreciation month. (more…)

What diversity and inclusion at Imperial means to me

Dr Rahma Elmahdi is a clinical academic who joined Imperial College London as a medical student. Here she reflects on the significance of diversity and inclusion at the College for Black History Month.


I loved my time at Imperial both as an undergraduate and postgraduate student. Being a student here I was exposed to a host of incredible opportunities that only an institution like Imperial can offer. Despite this, there were many moments when I felt both isolated and lonely as a young black woman studying here. As well as the very many good times, I recall living with a chronic sense of being ‘other’ and feeling that to pass as a true Imperial student, I should endeavour to look and sound like my white, affluent peers as much as possible. (more…)