Blog posts

Research as Art

Abellona U explaining her piece “A dream of metabonomics” to the judges.

Imperial’s PhD students displayed their artistic prowess at the Summer Showcase last week. Hosted by the Graduate School, the event saw 91 PhD students submit their most imaginative entries in a poster and ‘Research as Art’ competition. Judges included Imperial academics, artists, research students and individuals who were not scientists by profession.

One of the PhD students to take part was Surgery and Cancer’s Abellona U, who created an art installation for the competition. Below Abellona tells us more about why she got involved and how the piece represents her research.

“I have always wanted to represent my research in the form of art. This artwork represents research in metabonomics in general, applied to my particular research focus – hepatocellular carcinoma.

One way to interpret the work is to start from the human figure and go clockwise. The figure could represent our study participants who donate samples for us to analyse and generate data depicted by the metal wires.

Together these data give us a snapshot of the metabolism of a person. Metabolic network is represented in a dream-like manner on the first side of the double-sided painting. Though seemingly abstract, each component is in fact representing certain actual metabolic pathway. This is where the intricate metabolic network is working in balance, under tight regulation.

On the other side of the double-sided painting, however, is where metabolism is not working as it should. The focus of my research is on hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). So depicted here is an impression of how metabolism goes awry in cancer cells. In contrast to the balance and tight regulation on the other side, there are random, unpredictable changes.

The goal of my research is to identify biomarkers for diagnosing HCC earlier. The circles on the canvas represent the biomarkers that I aim to identify. Each contributing a certain weight towards a statistical model, represented by the threads of different thickness, it will inform us about whether a patient needs further investigations for HCC. This brings us back to the human figure, the patient, what this is all about.

It is a circle because this cycle is repeated again and again for validation. The piece is called “A dream of metabonomics”. It is a dream in two senses: 1) dream as in distorted reality – the abstract representation of actual science; 2) dream as in a goal, as this is a goal of humanity’s.”

The submissions for the competition are currently on display in Blythe Gallery until the 18 September.

A fitting farewell to Julia Anderson

After over 29 years with Imperial, Departmental Manager, Julia Anderson retired at the end of June. To honor her time at the College, an event took place on the 21 June to celebrate her incredible contribution and dedication to Imperial.

The event drew people from across Julia’s time at the College, including those who had retired or left, coming back to say their goodbyes. These included Prof Sean Hughes, the very first head of Department after the 1997 merger, along with Nigel Buck, Jenny Higham, and Suze Farrell.

Prof Nicholson shared his personal tribute to Julia in the form of an anacronym.

Jeremy Nicholson gave a detailed overview of Julia’s career, which all started in November 1974 at the Westminster Medical School. After a brief spell at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1984, Julia came back to the Medical School and formed part of the project team for building the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. She remained until CXWMS merged with other London Medical Schools to form the Imperial College School of Medicine (ICSM) in 1997. Since that time, Julia has been managing the Department through its many iterations over the last 21 years.

Professor Ara Darzi also gave a heartfelt speech on Julia’s consistent dedication to the development and support of the Department and the personal role she has played in supporting him and his work.

Julia played a huge role in forming and championing the Athena SWAN initiative in the Department and leaves a strong legacy in place for the next phase in the Department achieving its silver award.

The role of Departmental Manager will be taken on by Elsa Paul, who comes to us from the Faculty of Medicine at Kings College London. Elsa will be starting on the 30 July.

Surgery and Cancer Represent at the All-Party Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group

Marta Ajmar (VARI Deputy Director) highlights work within the Design Clusters of the collaborative Encounters on the Shop Floor project.

On 9th July 2018, members of Surgery and Cancer were among those invited to attend the Make and Create Panel Discussion, jointly organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group (APDIG), and the V&A Research Institute (VARI), held at Portcullis House, Westminster, London.

The event was opened by Barry Sheerman MP who welcomed participants from across design, arts, science, education and policy, and set the scene for the discussion. The main focus was on how to promote the broad themes of design and making, and how best to support the creative economy. Chaired by the new V&A Director Tristram Hunt, the panel discussed various attempts to promote design education, and the challenges of engaging inside and outside a taught curriculum.

The event provided an excellent forum for interdisciplinary networking for those with an interest in understanding design, making, and embodied knowledge. These are themes central to ongoing collaborative projects between VARI and Imperial, that have facilitated the formation of exploratory, innovative Design Clusters. One of these collaborations between Toby Athersuch (Lecturer, S&C Imperial), Rachel Warr (Freelance Puppeteer and Dramaturg), and Will Houstoun (Freelance Magician) – is aimed at developing a workshops that encourage participants to consider the contribution embodied knowledge (thinking with your hands) plays across multiple disciplines through a sequential process of instruction, demonstration, practice and play. As part of the APDIG Panel Discussion, Marta Ajmar (VARI Deputy Director) highlighted this work and other Design Clusters, alongside plans to further develop these interdisciplinary activities (pictured).

Concluding the session, Barry Sheerman MP indicated that the next steps for APDIG would likely include a request for a Parliamentary Group Inquiry into design, innovation, and making that would provide much-needed basis for informed future action.

Panel members included: Tristram Hunt (Director, V&A), Helen Charman (Head of Learning, V&A), Rebecca Goozee (VARI Education Resident); Brandon Matoorah (former Bridge Academy student), and Mark Miodownik (Driector, Institute of Making, UCL).

Prize for presentation on Fit for Follow-up study

Congratulations to Research Assistant Emma Robbins, who has just been notified that she won a £250 prize for her excellent oral presentation on the “FIT for Follow-Up” study at the British Society for Gastroenterology Annual Meeting, which took place in Liverpool from the 5th- 8th June.

The Annual meeting showcases the best of British gastroenterology, hepatology and endoscopy with hundreds of abstracts being presented orally or as posters, so this was a fantastic achievement for Emma.

 

Prizes galore at the Metabolomics Annual Meeting

Members of Computational Systems Medicine traveled across the pond to scoop a bounty of awards at the latest Metabolomics 2018 Annual Conference, which took place in Seattle from the 24-28 June 2018.

Simon Cameron received one of two Waters Corporation Travel Award, for the scientific quality of his submitted abstract, which provided $750 to help cover travel costs.

Natasa Giallourou, a Postdoc working in Jonathan Swann’s research group, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation received two awards at the Meeting, for her research on the metabolic impact of early-life undernutrition and enteric infections in children from developing countries. These included the Metabolomics Society Early Career Research Award for her Oral Presentation and the Metabolomics Society Early Career Prize.

To top it off, Elaine Holmes who gave the opening plenary session of the Meeting received a Lifetime Award for her contributions to the world of Metabolomics.

Surgical Conference One Stop Shop

A Surgical Conference Finder, developed by members of the Division of Surgery is available for surgeons globally to quickly search all surgical conferences and abstract deadlines by subspecialty, location and date.

Simon Erridge, an academic foundation trainee in General Surgery has been working in partnership with Mr Mikael Sodergren (Honorary Clinical Lecturer) to develop the resource and tells us how it came about.

“The Surgical Conference Finder was originally founded in February 2010 and the idea for the site arose from the difficulties encountered by surgeons in spending hours searching the internet for various conference locations and abstract deadlines. Today the Conference Finder houses a comprehensive database of over 500 surgical conferences and continues to grow. The aim of it to help people in trying to find interesting conferences to present their own research at or to find out more about the latest research in their field.”

“The Surgical Conference Finder is regularly updated, free to use and you can keep up to date with all the dates through the Surgical Conference Finder social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.”

Two Prestigious Awards for Professor Vassilios Papalois

Professor Papalois receiving his Honorary Doctorate (second from left) in Thessalonniki.

Professor Vassilios Papalois, Head of Specialty for Transplant Surgery for Imperial College Healthcare Trust has recently received two prestigious awards in recognition of his contributions to research, education and clinical work.

On the 20th of June 2018, he received an Honorary Doctorate (the highest academic accolade) from the University of Thessaloniki in Greece.  The award was in recognition of “his pioneering clinical, research and educational work in Transplantation Surgery in Europe and internationally”.

Prof Papalois receiving membership of the Spanish Transplantation Society.

On the 30th of June 2018 he became an Honorary Member of the Spanish Transplantation Society (the highest honour of the Society) in recognition of his “outstanding contribution and inspirational leadership in research, education and practice of organ transplantation”.   Professor Papalois is the only Transplant Surgeon who has received the Honorary Membership of the Spanish Association of Surgeons and the Spanish Transplantation Society.

Recognition for contribution to the postdoc community

Dr Biancastella Cereser receiving her award from Head of the PFDC Liz Elvidge

The Postdoc and Fellows Development Centre recently hosted the PFDC Reps Award Dinner to thank and recognise the significant contributions that the PFDC Reps Network make to the College. The Reps work on fostering a sense of community amongst Imperial postdocs, acting as a link between the PFDC, postdocs and the department and help the PFDC keep abreast of the challenges facing early career researchers.

Of the 75 Reps across the College, 13 were nominated for the PFDC Individual Award. One of which was our very own Biancastella Cereser (Postdoc rep at Hammersmith), who was nominated for the individual award for her continuous contribution to the postdoc community. Below Biacastella tells us a little more about her role as a postdoc rep.

“I joined Imperial College London in 2016 as a research associate in Prof Justin Stebbing group in the Department of Surgery and Cancer. I decided to become a postdoc rep not long after I joined Imperial College, as I wanted to network with fellow postdocs from other teams while also strengthening my CV with extra organisation skills.”

“I am an active member of the People and Culture committee and together with the other postdoc reps, I share the views of postdocs in several aspects of our job, and try to promote changes in our environment. Recently, I analysed the outcome of the staff survey, focusing on what the postdoc community of our Department thought about issues such as professional recognition, mental wellbeing and support from their line managers. From this, I’m currently contributing with the other reps and our postdoc champion to the design and implementation of a staff survey on career progression, aimed at postdocs not only from our Department but from the whole Faculty of Medicine (Hammersmith Campus), which will help to tackle, amongst other issues, the drop-out in academic progression, in particular from female postdocs!”

Find out more about postdoc support in Surgery and Cancer on our People and Culture Postdoc champions page.

Recognition for pioneering breast cancer surgery research

At the recent British Breast Group 2018 meeting, Mr Daniel Leff, Professor Ara Darzi and Professor Zoltan Takats were all selected to present their work on the intelligent knife for breast cancer surgery. This research has lead to the development of the Cancer Research UK Funded REI-EXCISE Trial, which is looking at whether the intelligent knife can help surgeons know if they have removed all of the cancer during breast cancer surgery.

The team won the Sir Patrick Forrest Prize for the best scientific presentation at the meeting.

CSM showcase their work at the Imperial Festival

Toby Athersuch in front of the “Wall of Fame” at the Imperial Festival.

At this year’s Imperial Festival, researchers in Computational and Systems Medicine (CSM) provided a number of activities for the public to get involved with some practical laboratory science.

Colourful separations soon to join the “Wall of Fame”.

Children and adults alike were invited to try their hand at some separations and investigate the composition of complex mixtures. In this instance, participants separated dyes using paper chromatography – employing the same underlying principles as we do for our routine bioanalysis – and could add their colourful creations to the ‘Wall of Fame”, creating a lovely collage over the Festival weekend.

Prof Naomi Chayen shares her work on the power of crystals.

“Crystals are Everyone’s Friends” continued to fascinate the visitors as evidenced by the large turnout at the stand (the fourth successive year we have run this activity at the Imperial Festival).

Our demonstrations of building proteins using sweets as amino acids was a big draw, so much so that the materials which usually last for both the days of the festival had to be replenished for Day 2 of the workshop. The follow-up from protein making to growing of protein crystals in real-time and then observing them under the microscope was equally enjoyed by all the visitors.

Kids crafting microbes from playdough in the Family Zone.

Over in the Family Zone, CSM contributed to the stand of “Love Your Bugs”, where festival-goers helped craft many different microbes with play dough – kids loved it! We also shared our knowledge on the microbiota through two games: microbes in and on our body and how they transmitted around our houses.

 

Thanks to everyone in CSM who helped deliver some excellent activities, and to all those who got stuck in! Roll on next year!

Visitors experience “Blast Rehabilitation Gym” at the Imperial Festival

The Royal British Legion Centre for Blast Injury Studies (CBIS) invited the public into its ‘Blast Rehabilitation Gymnasium’ at this year’s Imperial Festival. Part of the Centre’s work focuses on rehabilitation of those injured by blast, and many of these are amputees. Our stand therefore got the public trying out some balance exercises that physiotherapists use to help get amputees back to walking and doing Activities of Daily Life (ADLs).

We were also very lucky to have prosthetist, Mark Thoburn from Headley Court and Blatchford, showing the public a variety of different prosthetics, from old to new and from large to small.

For the younger visitors to the stand, we had a drawing and colouring competition, where we received over 150 colourful and creative entries, which was fantastic!

The stand was a great success because of the enthusiasm of our volunteers, both during the schools’ day and across the weekend. It was a great few days and we are already looking forward to next year!

Lucy Foss – Research Programmes Manager

Congratulations to all our old timers

Professor Steve Franks (left) pictured at the event to celebrate his 35 years at Imperial

Congratulations to all our staff who were celebrated at the recent long servers dinner and reception events that were held last week:

  • Helen Bell – 25 years
  • Alison McGregor – 25 years
  • Kate Hardy – 30 years
  • Mark Sullivan – 25 years
  • Steve Franks – 35 years

Read more about Imperial’s celebration for long-serving staff.

Top prize poster

Congratulations to Dr Chris Mullington (anaesthetist and PhD student with Dr Paul Strutton) for being awarded 1st place for best poster presentation at the Obstetric Anaesthesia 2018 meeting in Belfast for his work on mechanisms of hyperthermia following epidural extension for caesarean section.

Prize and Award for Dr Sanooj Soni

Congratulations to Dr Sanooj Soni (MRC funded DTA fellow in APMIC) who has been awarded the Anaesthesia Section trainee essay prize from the Royal Society of Medicine, for the abstract entitled: Microvesicles are key mediators of inflammation in acute lung injury.

Dr Soni was also selected to receive an International Trainee Scholarship Award for 2018 from the American Thoracic Society. This award provides support for international trainees to attend the ATS International Conference in San Diego, CA (held in May 2018). It includes a certificate of achievement, a cheque for $1000 and one year’s In-Training Membership in the ATS commencing June 2018.

4th New Perspectives in Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics

Pictured: Pete Bradshaw, final year PhD student studying aromatic amide hydrolysis, presenting his work.

This jointly organised meeting of the RSC BMCS, DMDG and Drug Metabolism Group, was held at Royal Society of Chemistry in Burlington House on 21-22 May 2018.

Over the two-day event, participants heard about recent research in drug discovery and development, spanning a wide range of topics; main sessions covered the broad areas of reactive metabolites and adverse reactions, chemical aspects of large molecules development, and medicinal chemistry approaches to improved metabolism, as well as a ‘hot topics’ session.

A keynote address by Douglas Spracklin (Pfizer, USA) set the scene for the meeting, providing an overview of the strategies and methods that have been developed for efficient, biocatalytic lead diversification.
Given the location of the meeting, a fitting central theme of the meeting was the need to understand the fundamental chemical principles underlying the observed biology, whether that be related to compound properties, kinetics, quantitation, or identification.

In addition to the platform presentations, participants had meeting-long access to the scientific posters and exhibitor stands, which continued this narrative and demonstrated the diversity and high level of activity in the DMPK arena.

Toby Athersuch
Drug Metabolism Group (DMG) Chairman

The 5th New Perspectives in DMPK conference will take place in early 2020. Details will be made available via the RSC BMCS, DMDG and DMG websites in mid 2019.

www.rsc.org/Membership/Networking/InterestGroups/BMCS
www.thedrugmetabolismgroup.com
www.dmdg.org

For she’s a jolly good fellow


Huge congratulations go to Aimee di Marco (Clinical Lecturer in the Divison of Surgery) who won the Gold Medal for the best overall candidate in the examinations for the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Aimee received her award at the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland, in Liverpool last week and is pictured above with her 5-month-old, who she was 6 months pregnant with at the time of sitting her viva and clinical. So I think we can all agree this is a very impressive achievement!