Science in Images: Diversity in Science

Our research lab currently has 8 nationalities, no less than 7 belief systems, and scientific backgrounds that range from chemistry to computer science. 


We are all very different, and at a time where discrimination based on difference is sadly a normal, it is important that I say that it is our variation that makes us successful and allows us to thrive as a research group.

Diversity in the workplace has been at the forefront of socioeconomic issues for many years. Increasing globalisation means that interactions with differing backgrounds are common place: insular populations are no longer the standard and people are part of a global economy.

Many see this paradigm shift as something to fear, that somehow embracing multiculturalism will diminish and devalue their own values and threaten their beliefs. There are many issues with globalisation that we should be wary of, but this is not one of them.

Exposure to a range of ideas allows us to form more balanced views on the world, ultimately leading to a decrease in in-built bias. The presence of a range of diverse perspectives also allows a groups to form much broader ideas, including perspectives individuals alone wouldn’t have considered. When this is viewed altogether, the society that is built from variation is one of increased respect and understanding.

In the context of research then, it is easy to see why a diverse cultural and scientific group can achieve more together than each individual could alone.

Working with those unlike ourselves offers us an untapped resource of knowledge, and challenges us even more so to validate those methodologies and understandings we base much of our research on.

The Importance of Self Care

Meet Kim, a service dog from Therapy Dogs International who payed a visit to the students and research staff at Michigan State University last week.

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The event, organised by the Michigan State Graduate wellness team, promoted time off for both students and junior faculty alike to unwind and let-off some of the stress that comes with working and studying.

I’ve been vocal in the past about the importance of mental health, particularly in science and research, but it was refreshing to see an academic institution actively promoting the mental well-being of their students and employees.

In academia in particular, mental health is usually overlooked and ignored, despite it’s high prevalence. Burnout, depression and anxiety are all common place and, in many cases, contribute to why people decide to leave their field of study or research entirely.

Taking some time out is important, especially when faced with stress and constant pressure. This doesn’t mean you have to take your eye off the prize but simply taking some time to read a book, go for a walk, eat a good meal or socialise with friends will not only make you happier and mentally more healthy, it’ll also put you in a better frame of mind to meet those deadlines, study that bit more and reach your potential.

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Kim getting antiquated.
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Gran Torino, the smooth collie.

Science in Images: Melanoma Cells

Over the last few days I’ve been struggling about what to post. America, as well as the world, has been engulfed in the post-election fall out and I don’t need to tell anyone how to feel about it. I’ve chosen instead to focus on positive things, so here is a picture from one of my many current projects.

These are B16/F10 cells, or melanoma. With these cells our lab is trying to specifically target cancer, allowing us to treat locally.

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Cells can be influenced by external stimuli: receptors at the surface of a cell (built into its cell membrane) can act by receiving (binding to) extracellular molecules. I like to think of these as tiny code-lock doors. If we know the code, we can engineering a material to have the code inbuilt, allowing us to specifically interact with only those cells. Targeted treatment in this way would allow many patients to live better, longer lives.

Currently the therapeutic option for many patients, especially post-tumour removal, is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy has many side-effects; hair loss, weight loss,  nausea, vomiting, fatigue, as well as issues with drug resistance. By utilising cell surface receptors and only targeting the cells we wish destroy, we can make treatment more effective, less invasive and improve the quality of life for many.

There’s a lot of work to do before such therapy will be clinically available but every day, and every bit of research takes us closer. I, like many others, do this work because I want to help people, all people, so that’s what I’ll be focusing on.