Kathryn tells us about doing Lorna’s study

i did lots of breathing through a tube and sometimes it got harder.  i had to say how i felt by pointing at pictures.  i was nervous before i started but then i got used to it.  lorna was very nice.  if you are wondering whether to do the study, i would say “it’s ok”!

Kathryn, age 7.

(You can see from the picture that Kathryn was keen to get going!)

Ellen tells us about doing Lorna’s study

I came all the way from Bedford to London to help Lorna with her study.  I had to breathe through a tube attached to a machine and have a nosepeg on my nose.  The machine made it harder to breathe sometimes, and I had to point to some pictures to tell Lorna how hard or easy it felt.  A computer measured my heartbeat and my breathing muscles, and how much air I breathed in and out.  It took about two hours and I had to concentrate lots.  After that, I went into a machine that was like a big see-through Tardis!  When I was in that machine, I had to breathe in and out and do big breaths while a different computer measured how big my breaths were.  At the end, I had to fill in a questionnaire about my asthma.  I also helped Lorna and Vicky decide what pictures were better than others to use to describe how hard or easy it was to breathe.

I was a little bit worried before we started and I didn’t really understand what I was going to do, but once we started it was quite easy.  If I was talking to another child who was thinking about doing the study, I would say not to be nervous because there will be one or two people with you all the time to explain what you need to do.  My advice is to always keep relaxed!

Ellen, aged 8 (nearly 9).

Congratulations Dan!

Dan has recently had some big news that is really important for his research – he has been awarded a “research fellowship” by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), which is the government-funded organisation that gives money for research.  It’s always hard to get any research funding, as described on our “What is research?” tab, but NIHR funding is particularly hard to get as lots of very good people apply so there’s tough competition.  Dan has applied before and not been successful, but he was not put off (it’s important to be persistent if you work in research!) and this time he did get the money.

There are different types of research grants that we apply for.  Most common are grants that we call “project grants”, which give us money to do one particular piece of work.  These grants will pay for the salary of a researcher to do the work, as well as for the supplies that we use along the way.  We also sometimes apply for equipment grants, which let us buy big pieces of kit like exercise bikes or lung function testing machines – a lot of the equipment we use costs many thousands of pounds so we have to plan carefully how we will pay for new equipment when we need it.

Fellowships are a bit different.  A fellowship gives money to one researcher for a set amount of time, often 3 years.  As well as paying for their salary during that time, plus the costs of their research, it includes money for the researcher to go to conferences and courses, and – if they are doing a PhD, like Dan is – pays the fees that the university charges.  It’s a really big achievement to get a fellowship, as it means that the people giving you the money believe that you, personally, have the potential to become a really good researcher and they want to make an investment in your future.

We are all really pleased for Dan – and Dan’s very pleased with himself!  It’s great news that he now has three years in which to do his project looking at the right type of help we can give people with their breathing while on intensive care.  We hope he will have some really exciting findings and wish him good luck – there’s lots more hard work ahead!

Unexpected extra things I’ve learnt in this job – from Vicky

My job is to be a researcher.  This means I have to do scientific projects (usually something to do with measuring breathing in children), and then also other things like teaching students, giving talks, planning new projects, and writing summaries of the research projects that I have finished.  When I started working at King’s in 2009, what I didn’t realise was all the other things I was going to learn along the way…

Fixing computers:  this is something I do a lot.  This can be anything from sorting out the settings on the computer when the university or hospital changes our internet connection, to knowing how to speed up a super-slow-running computer, to knowing the tricks for installing some handy software, to remembering where that one single cable is in the many boxes of wires we have (and each box seems to contain about 15 million wires).

soldering_power_connectorSoldering cables:  We use lots and lots of wires and cables in our work, and sometimes they get a bit damaged.  I have learnt how to put old cables back together and to make new ones using a special bit of equipment that heats the metal up so hot that it melts (I have also learnt to be super-careful when doing this…).

Connecting different sizes of tubing together:  This sounds simple, but it never is.  Most of our experiments involve breathing through some kind of tube, and often we need to connect several different tubes so that we can measure lots of different things.  The connections have to be airtight so that our measurements are accurate.  The tubes never seem to quite fit together, but I have learnt in my time here exactly which little plastic or rubber bit fits on which tube so that two pieces can be joined together.  My hands have also got a lot stronger with all the putting together and taking apart of tightly-fitting connections.  This skill was pretty useful when I replaced my bathroom at home and did all the plumbing myself!

Ignoring the strange looks people Body boxgive me as I walk along the corridor with weird bits of equipment:  We often have to move big bits of kit around.  My favourite time was when Alan and I had to move our “body box” (the same as the one in the picture – it’s about the size of a telephone box) from one side of the hospital to the other.  It was quite funny seeing people’s faces as we came through doors or out of lifts.

Tricks for getting very young children to do the tests right:  If someone moves around or talks when I am measuring their breathing muscles, we don’t get good pictures.  I have a few things I use to try and keep the little ones still, but I probably need to get a bit better at this…  Some of our other breathing tests need people to blow really hard, and we make lots of noise and have heaps of fun doing these tests with younger children!

Other things I do:  Fixing the toilet seat (the one in the men’s toilet always comes loose), re-wiring plugs, teaching people how to use the air conditioning (why does everyone struggle with this?), finding nice but cheap places to stay when we have to go to other countries for conferences (I did get this really wrong once – Alan and Ged haven’t quite forgiven me yet) – and writing a blog!