They grow up so fast – MRes Jan 2018 edition

Another new year, another new “They grow up so fast” post. This time its the turn of four MRes Clinical Sciences students that have been with our lab for the past 3 months.

Today, the students were presenting their work at a poster session in the Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease.

Four projects, all different in topic, direction and approach. My lab meetings have been not only large but also really stimulating. Much coffee required to stay on top of it all.

Lizzy Lourenco

20180112_123035(0)Picked up the next stage of the sunscreen studies we did last year (blog posts here, here and here). Using our UV sensitive camera and automated segmentation and analyses algorithms, Lizzy assessed the application habits of people using SPF moisturisers. Her project got lots of help; Gabriela Czanner for stats and design, Yalin Zheng and Harry Pratt for image analysis, Austin McCormick and myself for overall design and direction and Conro helped train Lizzy to get high quality images. Conro also took the pics in this post…. not sure how good a trainer he really was!).

Going in to this study, we expected less moisturiser to be applied in terms of volume compared to the sunscreens but that the users would be more thorough in terms of the coverage of the eyelids; our previous study showed the eyelids to be frequently missed/avoided with sunscreen. Turns out, we weren’t quite right; moisturiser application was actually even worse than the sunscreens. Intriguing. This leads to an important public health message- moisturisers are better than nothing but you still need eye protection. An abstract from this work is already submitted to the big dermatology meeting and we’ll write up the manuscript soon.

EDIT: Lizzy won joint second prize for her poster!

Laura Bowker


Laura picked one of our molecular biology projects and worked with Thanos Papadimitropolous on part of his PhD project looking at an RNA therapeutic for a rare eye disorder called aniridia.

I think its fair to say that Laura experienced the full rollercoaster of emotions that accompanies most hypothesis testing scientific research; hope in the early periods, confusion as things don’t work, despair as the time ticks down and finally something close to joy (or perhaps just relief) as the final experiments finally start to deliver data.

Of course, at that point she had to stop. Genuinely, her poster and project write up changed in the last week from “this idea doesn’t work” to “actually, it’s got a chance”

EDIT: Laura won joint second prize with her poster!

Nikitha Pasunu


Nikitha worked on one of our laminin projects, looking see if we can influence a “splicing switch” that some of our other work suggests goes wrong in squamous cell carcinoma. She worked with the help and guidance of two current PhD students and former MResers Conro Conro Sugden and Liam Shaw in trying to use an RNA approach to flip the switch back again.

Like Laura, Nikitha picked up a project early on its development and so a lot of her time was establishing the model, testing ranges of concentrations and timepoints. To be fair, this is what most time in the lab is spent doing so these 10 week projects are probably a fair reflection of that. Nikitha also ended up with some promising looking results that need lots of further confirmation but could be cool if they keep going the same way. This work will continue thanks to support from North West Cancer Research with Lee Troughton working on the project.

Elizabeth Attree

img_0566Lizzie #2 worked on a project with Dr Valentina Barrera that harks back to Vale’s time before the Hamill lab where she worked on Malarial Retinopathy in Malawian children. In this project Lizzie used immunohistochemistry and histological stains to investigate if and how a range of changes to vessels in the retina can predict disease severity, using the retina as a window to the brain. As always with Valentina involved, lots of really nice images of tissue staining were gathered and it turned into a well developed project.

It’s been fun, productive and hopefully enlightening for the students.


poster day


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