A second Panel member reflects on last week’s meeting

Students interested in the Science and Medicine field were recently granted the special opportunity to be a part of the King’s Muscle Lab advisory student panel which took place down the road from King’s College Hospital. Many of those were Year 12 and 13 students who like myself were from the ‘Harris Experience Advanced’ scheme along with some other students from JFS, Burntwood and Graveney schools who were lucky enough to be invited with us! This was the first gathering of the upcoming few for many of the students.

Upon arrival, we met 6 professionals in various fields including Doctors, Physiologists, Physiotherapists and Researchers. Each one gave a helpful presentation about their journeys into their professions and the various routes they took. Some were not panel presentation 010317as successful as others in their initial attempt. However, this broadened my insight into the very many similar pathways I could take other than Medicine including biomedical research. Our day was based around the broad topic of ‘Physiology’, the study of the functioning of the body, and specifically ‘Paediatrics’.

Soon after, we were assorted into groups with people we’d never met and each group was assigned a speaker to work with for 15 minutes. Here, we had the beneficial opportunity of asking questions that we were curious about. We discussed the differences between adults and children and their lung capacities. We then answered the question “Are children mini adults?” To my surprise, the answer was no. We also got the chance to share our future aspirations with them and gain useful tips and advice including upcoming work experience offers with the team which I am thrilled by! panel notes sheet 010317

As an aspiring neurologist, my favorite thing which we spoke about was the topic of brain diseases such as epilepsy, a neurological disorder which causes recurrent seizures in an individual. Also, learning about what causes the irregular brain wave signals which a sufferer experiences was fun. We deduced how factors such as other health conditions, race and age make developing epileptic seizures much more likely. Dr Harris also informed us about children he previously worked with in Uganda where the rate of death caused by open-fires is exceptionally high. Along with this, we brain-stormed the many difficulties a modern family with an epileptic child could face and the future issues which could arise.

Altogether, the experience was fascinating and a great success. Dr MacBean and her team organized it very well for us to feel welcomed and comfortable with one and other despite it being the first time seeing each other. (Side note: the snacks we panel meeting 010317munched on whilst being fascinated by the works of the respiratory system were lovely and a great aid for helping us absorb the new scientific content we learned.) It was not at all as difficult and fact-heavy as I initially expected it to be and turned out to be one of my favorite experiences so far this year. I will definitely be including this experience on my personal statement in future when I apply for Medicine, which I feel more content in doing after the Muscle Lab!

Special thanks to everybody who worked hard to provide us students with such an amazing experience!

Written by Sarah Ezzeddine, Year 12 Harris Academy Peckham

A new Student Panel member writes about our Panel meeting on March 1st

For those, like me, who love science it is natural to consider becoming a doctor. However, many students have very little idea what this involves and there are limited opportunities to find out more. So I was very grateful to be invited onto the King’s Muscle Lab panel. I went for the first time today and loved it. I have done the usual volunteering and work experience but this gave me a genuine insight into real life inside the NHS – how the moving parts all work together to produce better outcomes. Our panel were able to properly talk to the doctors and other healthcare professionals about their work which was a particularly valuable experience.

I’d never 20170303161836been on a student panel and had no idea what it involved but when I was sent the itinerary with a list of guest speakers I started to get excited! I arrived at King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (is there anything they don’t do?!) with a few other keen scientists from my school. We were welcomed by Dr Vicky MacBean who introduced us to the ‘Muscle Lab’ and the visiting professionals and then we were off!

Each professional, a mixture of doctors, physiologists and physiotherapists, had fifteen minutes with their group of five to discuss a topic that incorporated everything from child physiology to ethics to care plans to early intervention. I was fascinated to see that so many professionals with such varied backgrounds were all working in the field of respiratory studies whether it was research or clinical. To see how all the healthcare professionals’ work fit together was particularly interesting and very reassuring for those on the panel who are trying to narrow down what they might want to do in the future. Whether you’re the person 20170303161741holding the spirometer measuring vital capacity or the person in the lab examining lung tissue you are part of a wider system that works with the primary focus of caring for patients. All the professionals that we met were at different stages of their career and yet all of them were genuinely enthused to be sharing their experiences with us.

The focus of the session was paediatrics and specifically how this differs to adult healthcare. It was emphasised that children are not just ‘mini adults’. Although all the students attending learnt a great deal it wasn’t like being in a class at school. The small group environment created an easy atmosphere for discussion where every idea was valued and we felt able suggest something that we weren’t necessarily sure was correct. We were guided by our experts but given the ability to be free thinkers.

I had an20170303161810 encouraging and inspiring experience at the ‘Muscle Lab’. It opened my eyes to the complexity of our comprehensive healthcare system which is particularly topical. Instead of leaving fearful for the future of the NHS I left energised by the passion and enthusiasm of those who are working to keep it going. Their desire to include the next generation in their work is admirable and I’m extremely lucky to have met such wonderful people with such passion for the respiratory system!

 

 

Post written by Tilly Roberts, Year 12 student at Graveney School, London

Student Panel meeting – 1st July 2016

Recently, a group of ‘Harris Experience Advanced’ Year 12 Scientists, including myself, and some other students from Burntwood, JFS and Graveney Schools were lucky enough to be invited to attend a visit to the King’s Muscle Lab at King’s College London in Denmark Hill.Notes page 1

Upon arrival we were invited into one of the lecture rooms where we received a short introduction about what the King’s Muscle Lab does, and the research that takes place there. The main focus of their research is Physiology, involving studying the functions of body systems, then linking this to respiratory problems and other diseases among patients.
We were first given insightful presentations from researchers carrying out projects for their studies at or allied to the King’s Muscle Lab which was interesting and very beneficial to us, as it allowed us to see the wide variety of projects that can be included within different science degrees, and what type of research areas we may want to look into pursuing ourselves, in the future.

We were then split into groups of mixed students from different schools, to talk about a disease called COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and the subject areas linked to it with the academics. The groups were rotated so that everyone had a chance to discuss each area surrounding the topic. This gave us a chance to voice our opinions within a group of students that we had not met before, and it was fascinating to listen to others’ opinions and consider them in addition to our own, to form valid points for discussion.

Firstly, Ms Kylie Morgan (PhD student) lead a discussion on ‘the use of animal models for COPD Notes page 4research’ and we talked about the controversy of research into COPD and found that it is most commonly carried out on rats and mice, and discussed the ethics surrounding this. Following this, Dr Aish Sinha (Junior Doctor at King’s) encouraged discussion on how doctors and researchers are measuring and assessing the extent of the disease, and that it can be difficult to measure whether medication is successful for patients. COPD is heavily related to the issue of smoking, and in a discussion with Ms Basak Tas (PhD student) we explored the problem of addiction within COPD.
In the session with Ms Charlotte Cheadle (PhD student) we discussed pharmacological management of COPD and how medication is delivered. For people with COPD, the volume of air that can be exhaled is reduced however the volume of air that can be inhaled remains the same and this can affect patients in a variety of ways, both directly and indirectly. In a talk guided by Ms Arietta Spinou we came up with different ways a patient’s quality of life can be affected which we split into social impacts and physical impacts. Under the headline social, the anxiety the disease could cause for a patient was suggested, as they could become self-conscious of coughing in public which could lead to social isolation and loss of integrationNotes page 3 within their social circles. In terms of physical problems that COPD can cause, we discussed tiredness, which would limit the activities of their everyday lives, coughing which is heavily linked to social problems mentioned above, and having to turn down opportunities that cannot be adapted to fit with the disease. These short discussions were very insightful as the points that came up included some that I had not considered before.

Following the discussions, we then all met back in the lecture room to feed back. One person from each group was nominated to present their group’s views on each topic area and this allowed each group to build upon their opinions and bounce ideas off each other.

Overall the visit was a captivating experience, and as you can imagine, these events are veryNotes page 2 popular and we are very fortunate to have received such special treatment. On behalf of the Harris Federation and Harris Experience Advanced students, I can safely say that we all thoroughly enjoyed the visit and I would like to thank the members of staff that made it possible, with a special thanks to Dr Victoria MacBean and Dr Alan Lunt and the Academics that delivered and lead the group discussion sessions. We look forward to being involved in more of these fantastic opportunities in the future.

By Ashleigh Francis
Sixth Form Student at Harris City Academy Crystal Palace

A poem by Athos Athanasiou about the SpaceUp:UK conference

A wintry Friday in June we came to SpaceUp UK, bright eyed and keen, and this is what we heard.

If we age in space like we do on earth, but quicker
then we can raise our healthspan by making muscles thicker.
So move your muscles frequently, don’t be a floatanaut.
If you want to keep your health in age train like an astronaut.

Your skeleton aint static
cos blood runs through your bones.
We need high-res schematics
to map resulting holes.

Cardiac stem cells will senesce in Microgravity.
But there are ways around it for they go stochastically.
Cardiovascular degradation; we can’t get round that fact.
So run in the Space Station, yes that is how you act.

Low gravity in space could cause disks to expand.
It makes your back quite painful, whether you sit or stand.
In Heavy G they could contract and this is painful too.
But we don’t know a lot of why this will happen to you.

Our children will be living in a very different world,
so they should be our focus from a very early age.
Don’t teach them hocus pocus
and don’t just teach them STEM
Add A for Art
and make it steam.
Engage imagination, enthusiasm, dreams.
For the skills they need are lifewide.
And what we show them now will shape the world we leave behind.

Increase their science capital by reaching out to schools.
Show them that there’s a reason why we do the science we do.
Put pictures of a person looking down a microscope.
Knit a set of lungs or hearts. Knit dreams. Knit joy. Knit hope.
But get them involved
in the work you do.
Interviewing patients
and making posters.
They can bridge the communication gap.

Our brains evolved through gravity.
If you take that away,
the water pressure then builds up
and gives our heads a pain.
And if this pain is constant
you could become depressed.
But space is quite exciting now
so astronauts feel it less.

Standing still on earth, in bright light, on a flat surface,
We balance using 10% visual, 20% vestibular system in the ears and 70% proprioception.
If one is affected we undertaking sensory reweighting.
In astronauts the vestibular system gets messed up.
In a few days this reweighs
increasing dependence on the visual.
But visual quality also decreases.

If your dreams of bein’ an astronaut you don’t get to fulfill,
then set up the biggest space life science centre in Brazil.

In the stratosphere there is a sweet spot
where the air is warm and the water is liquid.
Test for life.
Not on the ground.
Up there
in the sky.
Do it independently.
Use Helium.
Send your project up there suspended on a string.
It might crash down,
but you would still have useful science.

On a flight to Mars, there’s greater risk of medical events.
And some are big so make sure the mission is medically capable.
How do you automate medicine, well an early warning system.
But beware, astronauts as soon as they get called astronauts believe they are infallible.

(To the tune of the Wombles’ theme)
Upstream market, downstream market, UK Space agency free.
They got involved in Tim’s mission to bring it back to you and me.
Making good use of experiment time they find.
Circadian rhythm the astronauts oft leave behind.
(Apologies Wombles)

Two superpower worked apart on Soyuz and Apollo
with duplicating problems and duplicating science.
They had to come together, there were far too many mistakes,
an unprecedented international collaboration in the ISS.
But that’s a start, the next step is
to work with other areas and fields cooperatively.

Homeostasis maintains the status quo.
In temperature, pressure, light and gravity.
It goes from -100o to 260o in 45 minutes.
Phew, that’s hard.
We need to help these astronauts stay well.

Puffy faces
Chicken legs
Spinal fluid
Pushes on the eye
The axial length is shortened
It makes it hard to get to Mars
We need to look to tests

Bob, he wears a spacesuit, it keeps his pressure even.
It mimics the loading we get right here on Earth.
It works by increasing tension in the vertical elastic fibres.
The fitting was quite intimate.
You can simulate the gravity in a Micro-G lab.
Then put it on and take it off in parabolic flight.

Influence policy. Use space tech for food and water shortage.
We can get a lot of data but it needs to be shared.
For those that need it most don’t have the access to it.

In 2018 James Webb Space Telescope will hopefully unfurl.
We’ll bite our nails for then, there’s lots that can go wrong.
And later WFIRST and LUVOIR.

Space tourism. DEBATE!
Space entertainment. DEBATE!
Space law. DEBATE!
There is much we need to think about.

So do we go by rocket or do we take the lift?
An elevator could give us payload as long as it don’t drift.
The price is prob’ly cheaper so that will help with thrift.
And so it seems that this would be a most fantastic gift.

And then? What then? Where should we go?
Let’s reach for the stars.
Don’t limit our thoughts, think beyond our technology.
Tweak some laws of Physics and then you can set sail.
But it’s all about the money and so about the time.
And will we get there before humanity may fail.

XCor does commercial space.
Get to Sydney in 2 hours.

Now we should thank those that worked hard to get this done.
Cheers and be jolly.
For Charles and Phil and Stephanie and Kate and Vicky and Molly.
And all those that I’ve missed.
And you the people taking part.
Who talked and listened.

So off you go with lots of facts re-join the Human Race.
And go and do exciting things that have to do with Space.

Athos Athanasiou
June 2016 at SpaceUpUK
@athosfolk
More space poems here: http://www.worldspaceweek.org/news/space-poem-day-world-space-week-day-1/
More Poems here http://athspoemaday.blogspot.co.uk/

“The patient is always right”

On Monday 13th March several of the student panel members were privileged to have the opportunity to attend the annual King’s College London Halliburton lecture, given by Professor Moxham. Professor Moxham is known for his work involving respiratory physiology, including respiratory muscle weakness, neural respiratory drive, breathlessness, ventilatory failure, non-invasive ventilation, and pulmonary rehabilitation. The lecture we attended on Monday, titled, “Physiology to improve Patient Care,” centralised around the idea that through bed-side research, breathlessness has not only been better understood, but will be further understood in the future.

The lecture began with an introduction by the Professor, where he told us that his interest in physiology arose during his work with RF Armstrong. He had been continuously measuring the cardiac output and blood oxygen levels by the bed-side and he told us he had, “found this very fascinating”. Several years later, he began his work in the field of respiratory muscle with Professor Richard Edwards, described to us as “an inspirational man.” He also talked about his past trip to Montreal where people examined changes in the EMG power spectrum and this allowed him to learn how to assess diaphragm strength.

This led to his work in trying to discover, “How to measure respiratory muscle weakness?” And he informed us that it is bed-side research which is essential to understanding this. He reported to us that the methods currently available for doing this are assessing maximum mouth pressure and oesophageal pressure. Professor Moxham explained that it was essential to find non-invasive ways to do this because in the instances where patients are unable to express their symptoms of breathlessness, we must rely on the medical equipment available to us, to allow us to understand the condition of the patients and help these patients.

He later presented to us what seemed to be the key theme of the lecture. “Breathlessness is the drive, and the drive is breathlessness.” At this point, the majority of the panel members struggled to understand this, but after the lecture Vicky explained to us that Breathlessness is the symptom where a patient is struggling to breathe, and drive is the “short term for neural respiratory drive, which is the traffic that the brain sends down to the breathing muscles (mainly the diaphragm, but also the intercostals and some other muscles) to tell them to contract.” She helped us understand that throughout the lecture, the Professor had explained that they key causes of this symptom of breathlessness are various diseases such as COPD, obesity and asthma. He concluded the lecture with the idea that when patients described breathlessness, it is not that it is not present if a doctor cannot see/measure it, the problem is that we have not discovered a way to measure the breathlessness, and hopefully through bed-side research the future doctors will understand that “the patient is always right” and that when they describe the symptom of ‘breathlessness,’ this is able to be seen with advanced medical equipment.

Although this was a challenging lecture for the student panel members to understand, it was both intriguing and enjoyable. We were introduced to a concept by Professor Moxham that we are all excited to further hear about in the future.

By Neta Fibeesh and Ma’ayan Dee, Student Advisory Panel members, JFS School (Year 11)

Maryam’s thoughts on our sickle cell focus group

On the 27th February, a handful of the student panel students, including myself, had the privilege of acting as ‘honorary researchers’ during a focus group for children with sickle cell disease and their families. For those of you who are slightly bewildered (don’t worry its nothing to be embarrassed of) ‘honorary researchers’ is the fancy way of saying: we helped out! In case you’re not sure, sickle cell disease essentially is a disease where people don’t produce enough red blood cells, and the ones that are produced can become ‘sickle’ shaped, blocking normal shaped red blood cells from passing through vessels. Such abnormality of the cells often results in tiredness, which as you can imagine isn’t fun…

Much to Vicky and Alan’s surprise, the day was Donuts low resrather mellow – with the exception of the hectic food run whereby the supposedly quick ‘2 minute’ wait ended up being 10, and the jerk chicken was too spicy leaving us running back and forth to the nearby food stalls for the last minute order of pork dumplings. However the pain of the biting cold was definitely nullified by the taste of warm cinnamon doughnuts.

… Anyways, while Vicky and Alan did all the grown up duties with the parents, Lily, Francesca, Abi, Reef and I had the tasks of getting Abi & Ekene low rescreative with our participants (drawing, writing etc) which produced masterpieces such as the spectacular depictions of Abi and Reef by our wonderful artist Ekene. Somehow drawing, writing and surveying concluded in a singReef & Ekene low res along of Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘call me maybe’ thanks to Reef’s ukulele skills.

Aside from all this, we essentially wanted an insight as to how life like with sickle cell disease actually is, in order to comprehend fully the difficulties experienced by these families. This ended up being beneficial as we not only got a grasp of how it was to be a guardian of the children for a short time, but how they felt about having the disease. Thankfully, it also happened to be a delightful experience meeting all these lovely families. Not too bad at all for a first attempt at an event like this!

Spot Alan low resMaryam Waseem-Saeed, Burntwood School (Year 12)

A Student Panel member writes about our recent meeting

The first student advisory panel meeting of 2016 commenced with new arrivals from JFS and Harris Academy (Morden) at Harris Academy Crystal Palace. Our discussion was centered around disordered systems with presentations from researchers hailing from Italy and Serbia.

We were joined by Dr Pierpaolo Vivo, Barbara Bravi ,Silvia Bartolucci and Aleksandra Aloric from the Faculty of Natural & Mathematical Sciences at King’s College London. Each researcher presented their international journey through academia and explained their current research including the Random Matrix theory and mathematical modelling of the immune system.

We had the privilege of having individual discussions with the researchers and were able to ask questions to further understand disordered systems. Disordered systems refers to a system in which there are multiple components involved. It includes variables that need to interact, an aspect of “randomness” and collective coordination.

We learnt how disordered systems are relevant in group behaviour. To my surprise, an example of disordered systems in group behaviour is the awkward dance with a stranger when passing each other on the street. The surprises didn’t end there with the movement of a flock of birds being another example of disordered systems. In Rome a team of researchers recorded starling flocks every day for 2 years to investigate collective coordination. There is not an established leader in the flock of birds that causes the sudden change of direction which is the random aspect of system at play. The aim of this research is to understand what causes the birds to make a sudden change of direction. Using the data collected from the birds, the researchers created a 3D model that conducted model simulations. These simulations were used by the researchers to analyse in a hope to understand the change of direction.

Afterwards, we considered how disordered systems are relevant in life sciences. Bravi’s research outlines the simplification of complicated networks of biochemical reactions using approximations. Disordered systems also helps the interpretation and analysis of data via mathematical modelling.

To make the concept of disordered systems comprehensible and widely accessible to people, Aleksandra Aloric, Silvia Bartolucci, Barbara Bravi, Sari Nusier and Anne Odling-Smee created the educational game “Random walks with pirate and parrot“. This game is available on the Play Store and it consists of different levels from helping a pirate walk to find his boat to the biological “walk” of molecules occurring within the parrot’s body.

In conclusion, the meeting was exceptionally engaging as it evoked curiosity in me alongside fellow members of the student panel about the function of disordered systems and its unexpected presence in nature and society. After this meeting I will not be able to simply admire the beauty of flying birds in the sky without thinking about the science behind it.

Bilan Ali-Abdishire, Burntwood School (Year 12)

Engage 2015

On 2nd and 3rd December, Vicky and Alan headed off to Bristol for ‘Engage 2015′, which is the annual conference of the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement.  The conference is attended by people from all sorts of areas of work:  many working within Universities and Colleges (both doing academic – teaching and research – jobs, and those in roles such as public engagement, outreach, marketing and diversity), but also people from funding councils, charities and social enterprises.  The conference was much more interactive and discussion-based than the scientific conferences we normally go to, so was a great opportunity to share ideas and opinions with people from really varied backgrounds.

We presented our poster about how we’ve developed our public engagement approach over the last year with the help of you – our audience!  Our main focus was the fact that we had started the blog as a means of reaching out but without really knowing who we wanted to reach.  Our Student Panel in particular has been absolutely vital in developing what we do, and we are so grateful to all the Panel members for their honest feedback.  We are particularly grateful to Kabilan Parameswaran from the Panel who worked with us to decide what were the key things to go on the poster.  Below is the poster we displayed, which has since been brought back and put up on the wall in our patient waiting area.  We also showed some of our videos on an iPad alongside the poster, which got people interested!

So here’s to further progress and collaboration with our most valuable assets – YOU!

Engage poster

A Panel member reports on our recent meeting

We recently gathered again at Guy’s Hospital for our third student advisory panel meeting.  The theme this time round was Extreme Physiology – the branch of physiology that focuses on mechanisms of living systems under extreme conditions.

We were joined by Ms Fleming, Ms Attias and Mr Carvil – PhD academics from the Centre of Human & Aerospace Physiological sciences at King’s.  Also with us was Dr Elliott, a lecturer in physiology at the University of Westminster.  We began with introductions from each of them where they outlined their journeys through science as well as some of their recent work.

They then joined us in our small group discussions.  Here we were presented with the following points which we subsequently discussed:

How to research extreme physiology:  We brainstormed the different ways in which research in this area can be done; evaluated the pros/cons of using simulators in comparison to real conditions and considered some ways to obtain accurate and reliable findings.  We also looked at some of the practical applications.  Common examples are with extreme conditions in space but others range from the post incident cooling of firefighters to the changes of body temperatures during prolonged swimming.

How the research should be funded:  Here we thought about the different ways to gain funding for the research, with common sources being charities and the government.  A key discussion was whether or not research in extreme physiology is worth funding at all.  Some argue that more funds should be going towards the arguably more beneficial areas of research like the development of pharmaceuticals.

The use of the research in other populations:  We discussed some potential applications of extreme physiology research to other fields.  For example, it could facilitate developments in nutrition and bone fracture healing.  Furthermore, some pointed out that the research could have applications that we are not yet aware of.  This links to the fact that many of the world-changing scientific discoveries were not deliberate. An example given was of Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin.  If Fleming’s contaminated bacterial cultures led to the development of a widely used antibiotic, then perhaps research in extreme physiology could one day impact the world on a similar scale.

When the small group discussions ended, I bravely took to the stage to summarise the points that my group came up with.  I was shortly joined by the panel members from the other groups and we ended the meeting by bringing together all of our points.

All in all, the meeting was insightful and I found it interesting discussing what seems to be a rather exciting branch of physiology.  Even if research in extreme physiology doesn’t change the world, I think we should still continue with it just for the thrill of gaining knowledge.

Anthony Butale, Year 13, Harris Academy Falconwood

It’s Biology Week 2015!

This week is Biology Week, ending on Friday with Physiology Friday, so there will be a post each day throughout the week to keep your biological interest piqued!  Today’s post is a link to the radio programme that a colleague of ours featured on recently. Dr David Green is a senior lecturer in the Centre of Human & Aerospace Physiological Sciences at King’s College London.  Dr Green’s research is about how the body adapts to change, including in extreme environments, ageing, sport and disease, and what can be done to help this.  Dr Green does a lot of work related to space travel and what happens to astronauts both in space and when they return to earth.  He also runs the Space Physiology & Health Masters course – you will see the students from this course featuring in our Friday Physiology Facts throughout this term.  We think his research is pretty cool!  On this radio programme, he talks about what kind of people are physically and mentally suited to going into space.  If you’re a budding astronaut, make notes!