In a wonderfully sunny day, the 12 talks and 45 posters presented at the MRC WIMM Day provided an excellent opportunity to showcase the Institute’s research on rare diseases, haematology, immunology and infection, stem cells and developmental biology and cancer biology.© Erdinc SezginA particular highlight of the day was the student session, where 4 students (selected at the student day earlier in the year) competed for the Ita Askonas Medal. The topics ranged from immune checkpoints to genome engineering, and clearly showed the high level of research conducted by our DPhil students. Choosing a winner was a tough task for our Scientific Advisory Board, and two students- Yale Michaels (Fulga group) and Alba Rodriguez Meira (Mead group), both from the Radcliffe Department of Medicine, were jointly awarded the medal this year. Poster prizes were awarded to Marieke Oudelaar (1st prize, Hughes group), Isabelle Stewart (2nd prize, Bannard group) and Tiago Luis (3rd prize, Jacobsen group).
A real treat was the 7th Weatherall lecture, delivered by Prof Aviv Regev from the Broad Institute in the USA. Named after our founder, Prof Sir Weatherall, the lecture has, over the years, attracted speakers of the highest calibre. Prof Regev’s talk did not disappoint, as she explained how computational biology is integrating a wide range of data to bring us closer to produce a ‘periodic table of our cells’, a project called the Human Cell Atlas.
Celebrating public engagementThe symposium was also an opportunity to highlight some of the best examples of engagement with the public by researchers from across the Institute. The individual prize (£300 Amazon vouchers and £300 towards a public engagement activity or conference) was awarded to Eleni Louka from the Mead and Roberts groups. Eleni set up the first UK parent group for families with children that suffer from a rare and aggressive form of childhood leukaemia called JMML. The meeting brought together parents, presented current research and discussed ways in which the group could help affected children in the future. Those involved are now taking steps to establish this as an ongoing group, set up a patient website, organising fund raising for future research and encouraging patient recruitment.
© Erdinc Sezgin
© Erdinc SezginThe team prize was awarded to the DNA origami team, which developed a set of hands on activities and virtual reality experience that explored the size of the genome, the tools being used to explore DNA packaging in the cell, and how important this packaging is for health. This was originally taken to the Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2017, but has now branched out into a variety of other public engagement and scientific projects. The winning team was awarded a restaurant voucher to celebrate their success. Attendees could also have a go in the virtual reality experience over the coffee breaks. Honourable mentions were also given to the Blood Factory team, that converted a room in the Oxford Museum of Natural History into an immersive and engaging experience on all things science and blood, and the team led by Dr Andrew Armitage and Hal Drakesmith that collaborated with STEM Science Learning Partnership to develop a one day course for science teachers.
Finally, this year’s Andrew McMichael Medal for excellent graduate supervision was awarded to Prof Hal Drakesmith, Associate Professor of Immunology at the MRC Human Immunology Unit.
A very enjoyable day
“WIMM Day was a great showcase for the progress in our basic and translational work in the MRC WIMM. It was a particular pleasure to hear the student talks which were of the highest quality both in terms of research and presentation.” Said Prof Doug Higgs “The Weatherall lecture continues to attract the most prominent biomedical scientists and this year’s presentation from Aviv Regev was outstanding. Overall a very enjoyable day which reflected the upward international trajectory of the MRC WIMM”
The symposium concluded with a trip to a nearby beer garden, a gathering organised by the Postdoc and Student Associations.