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UKRI exhibition: epigenetics and more…

Look what I came across in the exhibition hallway – UKRI making its mark! It was a chance to hear more about this new ‘entity’ and to discuss interesting ongoing research in many different fields.

Photos taken at the July 2018 EuroScience Open Forum Toulouse, France

I just couldn’t resist the chance to play with a hands on activity relating to epigenetics – a fun approach to understanding science.

Have you ever wondered how every cell of your body has the same DNA but is not doing the same thing and cells are doing different things at different times?

‘All of your body’s roughly 50 trillion cells contain the same genetic information encoded within your DNA. DNA is interpreted differently in each cell type due to epigenetics, a collection of chemical marks that affect how genes behave. As such, epigenetics is part of what allows each part of your body to do different jobs.’

‘UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is a new entity that brings together nine partners to create an independent organisation with a strong voice for research and innovation’

More about UKRI here
More about work in this area at the Babraham Institute, Cambridge,UK.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth

Thank you ESOF 2018!

Euorpean Science Open Forum (ESOF 2018) media accreditation

EuroScience Open Forum 2018 in France

Thank you ESOF 2018!

For Media Accreditation

For the Freedom to dip in and out with access to everything. The opportunity to meet, mingle and make friends with so many interesting people.

As a science communicator, I am returning with so many stories to tell from Toulouse.

I will be spreading not only the serious science but also the joy of science. Watch this space – here and elsewhere.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth

Back to the labs and forward to a new generation of researchers…

I enjoy interacting with early-career researchers and mentoring students in order to understand their current challenges and aspirations; to share my career experiences and tips; and to support and encourage PhD students. Such students have so much potential!

I gladly took up a recent invitation to meet and talk with researchers in the field of cancer research, in Manchester (UK).

There are so many opportunities ahead for them!

by Dr Julie Charlesworth

Standing up for Science

I was delighted to have been invited, as an observer, to attend this event for PhD students, postdocs and early researchers in various fields of research. The ‘Standing up for Science’ Manchester Voice of Young Science (VOYS) workshop organised by Sense about Science was held on 13th April 2018 at Manchester University.

As a mentor to students in the Life Sciences, my main purpose was to explore how this type of event could benefit my mentees. The workshop turned out to be worthwhile for this purpose and many other reasons…

Standing up for Science

Arriving early!
Cognisant of the potential traffic delays, I set off in good time only to arrive an hour early! Still, this provided a chance to say ‘hello’ to the organisers Anastasia, Chris and Sanjana. After receiving a very warm, friendly welcome I then quickly made myself scarce to enable them to get everything ready for the day ahead. On return (at the correct registration time!), I found the room was filling up with 40 young research scientists a few of whom clearly knew each other and the others soon did.

Refreshments time and a table of take away information to browse provided informal networking opportunities. The attendees were then seated and the lively banter continued – the atmosphere boded well.

The meeting started.
The day comprised a full programme including breakout small group discussions providing researchers a ‘warm-up’ with some fascinating and thought-provoking issues to talk about in readiness to voice their questions and opinions to the wider group, and for the panel sessions that followed each breakout session. The calibre of the panellists was high including researchers who have engaged with the media; policymakers talking about why good evidence is important for them and how researchers can help inform policy; respected science journalists talking about how the media works, how to respond and comment, and what journalists expect from scientists and researchers. Communications experts provided hints and tips on how young researchers can start standing up for science and how to involve the public in communicating research.

In summary, the workshop covered topics such as science and the media; what policymakers are looking for; what journalists are looking for; support available from institutions and also the responsibilities of research scientists for the public discussion of science and evidence. There was much lively, thought-provoking debate. On the day, I was asked to participate in the discussions and I was very happy to do so.

I was struck by the professionalism and slick organisation of the event together with the ambience created to foster open and honest discussion. The enthusiasm, maturity and sheer potential of young researchers today is heart-warming and in my opinion they deserve to be encouraged and supported in their careers and the many challenges they face.

I also heard some new perspectives from young researchers – lifelong learning is important and so much fun.

Based on this experience, I am definitely recommending future events to my mentees, particularly the PhD students in Life Sciences.

A big thank you to the organisers for inviting me to attend what proved to be an informative, inspiring and enjoyable day.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth

Links for further information about Sense about Science and the Manchester event.

Celebrating Inspiring Women at Manchester, March 2018

I was delighted to have been invited to the ‘Celebrating Inspiring Women at Manchester’ event on International Women’s Day, 8th March 2018.

Celebrating Inspiring Women at Manchester

This year the discussions focussed on the media industry and the ways it shapes how we talk about women. The expert panel discussion stimulated an insightful and thought-provoking evening with some timely and pertinent questions together with an atmosphere of openness and sharing of experiences. It was also a great opportunity for meeting new friends, colleagues and current students to reflect on progress made and new challenges. Thank you to all the organisers for making this such an interesting and enjoyable event.

More about this event and other perspectives on International Women’s Day to be found here.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth

2018 and a new theme for A Tree of Life Sciences

2018 heralds our new theme….

… in Life Sciences, Clinical and Health Research and Initiatives

We are increasing our involvement in international high-value collaborative projects, through consultancy and communication work, whilst continuing to support initiatives and causes that are heartfelt.

Here’s to great co-operation, collaboration and communication in 2018!

Great choice of opening lecture at the Autumn EMWA Conference!

What a great choice of Lecture to start the EMWA conference in Cascais, Portugal!

On November 2nd, 2017 – 133 medical writers and aspiring medical writers gathered to hear an excellent lecture on the use of viruses against antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Fascinating science. The potential use of bacteriophages is an important and timely topic in view of the threat of antibiotic resistance to public health. New approaches present challenges to regulatory frameworks to ensure patient benefits. This brings challenges for medical writers who have an important role in helping new approaches get critically evaluated and available fast.

On a general note, the atmosphere at the conference was stimulating and friendly – with a diverse range of attendees (214) from Europe and beyond – from newcomers to some very experienced professionals all there to learn and continue learning together, and share experience. Whilst there is so much information available elsewhere nowadays – these face-to-face interactions definitely have a very valuable place as well.

It was great to be catching up with colleagues and friends; also meeting new people with much to offer. Of course, there is the bonus of engaging in enjoyable and stimulating impromptu debates at breakfast and coffee times!

by Dr Julie Charlesworth

(previous post on ABR)

Northernness, Power Women and a good dose of Yorkshire Grit

The draw of Leeds (my roots; where I was born and bred) was strong and coupled with a curiosity to see what other Northern women are up to – I found myself on the M62 driving over the Pennines and heading to the first live event of the Northern Power Women (NPW).

Northern Power Women Banner

In the past I have tended to avoid all-women events but I’m getting to really like them – and they’re not all women either. Well, there you go, never assume – keep an open mind.
Result: Meeting some great people and enjoying the energising experiences.

Northern Powerhouse

Some 200 participants gathered in the recently converted Salem Chapel conference venue in the centre of Leeds. The chapel’s new auditorium, combining character and technology, provided a unique setting for story-telling, performances and discussions.

The event comprised a series of quick-fire talks – aspirational yet also to the point. Voices were rich in diversity: from the louder, passionate to the quietly emotive. There were moments to meet and mingle round the stalls in the exhibition hall. The day ended on an uplifting musical note with a duo from the Royal Northern College of Music.

And, of course, weaving throughout the event was a bit of wit and Yorkshire Grit.

Proud of my Yorkshire roots and mindful that I have a good dose of Yorkshire Grit engrained in me – on reflection, it comes in handy in life!

The NPWLive event was inspiring and worthwhile. Like the best of events, it’s not over when it’s over – thought-provoking stories can leave lasting powerful memories.

Norther Power Women Literature

There were also, of course, the additional benefits of – great value for money; the general friendliness of ‘Yorkshire folk’ you meet including the parking attendants ‘Ello Luv’. Moreover, I didn’t get lost on the inner city roads this time – I only had to ask the way once 😉.

Final thoughts – the power of story-telling and that resilience and a sense of humour can get you through the ‘knocks’ in life to bounce back, speak out, make things happen and inspire others. Think big!

by Dr Julie Charlesworth

Further information and links

Yorkshire Grit: Yorkshire people are often noted for their grit, determination and natural resilience; as well as their warmth and friendliness.

For more about the Northern Power House, click here

For more about Northern Power Women and the event in Leeds, click here

Maggie’s Manchester, the kitchen table concept and more…

Please let me share with you an uplifting experience and a new approach to cancer care I discovered recently.

By chance, during an unrelated event in Manchester, I was introduced to a development officer representing Maggie’s, a cancer charity organisation. I was delighted to subsequently receive a personal invitation to visit Maggie’s in Manchester.


Maggie’s Manchester is a new centre at The Christie Hospital (there are 18 other Maggie’s Centres across the UK and others are starting up outside the UK). The Manchester centre’s precise location is very familiar to me (just a stone’s throw away from the labs where I spent my early cancer research years). I was curious to find out more about new holistic approaches to cancer treatment and care.

A few weeks later, I took up the invitation. I dropped in for a chat over coffee, which led to a personal tour; which led to discussions with the development manager and centre head, and a chat with some of the volunteers, patients and their families. What a welcoming experience!

Maggie's Centre Manchester

An immediately striking feature of the centre is its architecture and design. The building is set in gardens and there are areas where people can potter about doing a bit of gardening or just relax and be close to nature. Indoors, there is also an ambience of tranquility, space and natural features. There are open areas for meeting people or making new friends. Smaller meeting rooms provide more privacy for discussions, if preferred. There are also quiet alcoves for anyone just to be alone – perhaps to read a book from the small library which comprises an array of interesting and well-chosen subjects.

A small family group including children were chatting in a comfortable seating area. I can imagine the wood-burning fire is particularly welcoming in the winter months.

Elsewhere, people were making tea and coffee, sampling healthy snacks and chatting round a central feature – the kitchen table.

The kitchen table concept left a memorable impression and I learned this is a key theme of Maggie’s, generally.

‘At the heart of every Maggie’s Centre is a kitchen table: It’s a place to sit and read; a place to talk to other people; a place to find support from professional experts. You can walk into Maggie’s at any time, make yourself a cup of tea and sit down at the kitchen table to think, talk, laugh, cry or simply take a quiet moment. …’

I picked up one of their leaflets about Kitchen Table Days – where this concept extends to fundraising events run by volunteers beyond the centres, for example, in their own homes.

There is an important purpose to Maggie’s centres and they offer a range of services. People diagnosed with cancer can face difficult questions, exhausting treatment and complex emotions. Family and friends are affected too. The centres offer free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their family and friends. An advantage of being located in the grounds of NHS cancer hospitals, is that there are professional staff on hand to offer the support people need. The centres also host and organise free classes, workshops and events.

‘Our Centres are places to find practical advice about benefits and eating well; places where qualified experts provide emotional support; places to meet other people; places where you can simply sit quietly with a cup of tea.’

All in all, it was an interesting day from many different perspectives. From discussions with the centre head I learned about the history and the vision of Maggie’s; the achievements and practical challenges, and some great initiatives. Moreover, it was lovely to meet a community of people supporting each other and supporting others: permanent staff, volunteers, people with cancer and their families and friends.

In the context of a fast-paced, often stressful life these days, Maggie’s is different – it’s an uplifting example of a holistic caring approach. It provides thinking time!

For more information about Maggie’s Manchester click here and about Maggie’s generally click here.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth

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