In this post, Jennifer Shelton provides an insight into her PhD project which involves over 500 citizen scientists from across the world, in the hope of better understanding a species of fungus that is linked to disease.
It started by a poolside in Gran Canaria.
I was reading my book but thinking about the sticky films we use in the lab to cover plates of DNA that a former postdoc in my group had used to collect Penicillium spores for his study on the population genetics of ‘Alexander Fleming’s lucky fungus’. I’d already decided as part of my PhD to conduct a country-wide survey to determine background levels of Aspergillus fumigatus – a species of fungus – spores in the UK. I had put aside several weeks for driving around the country to collect air and soil samples, yet thoughts of a citizen science project kept buzzing. What if I asked individuals across the UK to collect samples of their local air on a single day, say summer solstice, and post them back to me?
Citizen science projects are increasing in popularity and rely on members of the public to voluntarily collect samples, process data or record observations as part of a research project. Some well-known examples include SETI@Home, which uses internet-connected computers to analyse telescope data in the search for extra-terrestrial life; Foldit, an online video game about protein folding and Swab & Send, a widespread swabbing exercise to identify novel antibiotics in the environment. (more…)
This festive period Three Wise Women from the Faculty of Medicine will be giving us the gift of their wisdom.
Our final wise woman, director of the School of Public Health Professor Deborah Ashby, shares her joy of medical statistics, from working in neonatal research to taking on the Royal Statistical Society presidency.
“We Three Queens of Orient are…” came the dulcet sounds in the lead-up to Christmas. I looked up across the old Liverpool maternity ward, to see three colleagues singing and, channelling Morecambe and Wise, dancing towards me and my newborn daughter. The three women who had come to visit were all, like me, lecturers in medical statistics at the University of Liverpool, and that memory still brings a smile.
Although it was less glamorous than the alternatives, I’d chosen to give birth there, reasoning that if it went well, it didn’t matter where I was, but if not, I’d rather be somewhere with wide experience, actively engaged with and informed by research. In Liverpool, I had worked with the academic doctors from that maternity hospital, so knew I would get both. You might wonder why they had sought my advice, but research on babies involves analysing complex data on them, or designing studies to test competing treatments or strategies – all of which needs statistical skills along with clinical input. (more…)
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…)
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…)
Dr Anne Cori and Dr Marc Baguelin explain why they need the public’s help to help make data on epidemics like Ebola and Zika more accurate.
Controlling epidemics relies on key decisions, like how many hospital beds are needed and who should be vaccinated or treated first. These decisions rely on data about people who are infected, but mistakes can be made when entering information, which can lead to incorrect decisions being made.
What is the Typo Challenge?
The Typo Challenge is a fun challenge where you are asked to type dates into an app on your computer, laptop, tablet or phone, which helps us collect information about what kind of mistakes people make when they enter dates electronically. With this information we want to create software for researchers trying to better understand how epidemics spread so when they receive data about epidemics in the future they will be able to automatically check the results for accuracy by using the software. (more…)
Rebecca Blaylock is a student on the Master of Public Health programme at Imperial and here makes the case for increased access to reproductive healthcare.
Students from Imperial’s Master of Public Health programme recently organised a screening of the award-winning film “Vessel”. Vessel chronicles the story of Dr Rebecca Gomperts – a former doctor on a Greenpeace ship – who had an innovative idea to provide women with vital reproductive health services. During her time travelling the world with Greenpeace, Gomperts witnessed the unbearable suffering caused by unsafe abortions. She saw women haemorrhage to death, die from sepsis and sustain life-long disabilities, and refused to “stand there and just let that happen”. Around 25 million unsafe abortions take place every year, accounting for between 4.7 and 13.2% of global maternal deaths.
On World Health Day, Professor Azeem Majeed takes a look at the past, present and future of the NHS.
In 2018, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) celebrates its 70th anniversary. With the creation of the NHS in 1948, universal health coverage was finally implemented in the United Kingdom, with the NHS replacing the previous patchy health coverage schemes that had left many people with limited access to health services. All residents of the United Kingdom were given the right to register with a general practitioner, who was responsible for both providing primary care services and organizing referrals for specialist care. (more…)
Dr Susanna Sakonidou writes on how the BUDS project is improving the experience for parents of babies in neonatal care with an app.
Alarms going off, doctors and nurses rushing across the ward, parents desperately trying to catch someone’s eye to get an update. The reality of having babies in neonatal care is undoubtedly traumatic for parents. As high as 35% of them can develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (1), which can in turn interfere with the process of baby-parent bonding (2).
Having a baby that requires neonatal care is more common than one might think. One in eight babies born in the UK are admitted to a neonatal unit and surveys show that parents struggle to adjust to this unfamiliar environment. Getting verbal updates about their babies is difficult, given how busy staff is dealing with emergencies on the unit. As a result, parents frequently feel excluded from their babies’ care. (more…)
Katharina Hauck speaking at the Annual Meeting 2017 of the World Economic Forum in Davos (Copyright by World Economic Forum / Sikarin Thanachaiary)
To mark World AIDS Day 2017, we have published a series of blog posts to highlight the important and varied research that takes places at Imperial. Three experts from Faculty of Medicine share their interest in HIV/AIDS which spans from the elusive vaccine to the economics of the epidemic.
World AIDS Day takes place annually on 1 December as an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV and to show support for people living with HIV/AIDS.
The role of an economist in the HIV epidemic
As an economist, my research on HIV takes a higher-level population view. We advise policy makers in governments and international organisations on the cost-effectiveness of preventive and treatment interventions in the countries most ravaged by HIV. By estimating the benefits and costs of interventions, we can identify the ones that promise greatest improvements in population health. (more…)