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