Institute celebrates achievements all round at annual Lab Talks

24/11/2022

Institute celebrates achievements all round at annual Lab Talks

Institute celebrates achievements all round at annual Lab Talks

Retuning fully in person for the first time since the pandemic, last week the Institute came together for their annual symposium ‘Lab Talks’. Staff across the Institute are invited to share the latest research findings, updates on facilities and news about Institute life.

Dr Simon Cook, Institute Director, described the day: “It was fantastic to be holding this event in person again, and seeing our colleagues come together to make the most of face-to-face networking alongside the exciting talks. As always, Lab Talks is a chance to showcase the breadth of work that we do here, with talks ranging from PhD project results to wellbeing at work, facility updates and projects that improve the way we work and support staff across the board. This year the calibre of the scientific talks was outstanding, I am very proud of the progress our community is making.” 

The Institute was especially pleased to welcome the event’s keynote speaker Professor João Pedro de Magalhães from the University of Birmingham who gave an excellent overview of ageing from a system biology perspective across species, and his experience in the field as our knowledge of ageing has been revolutionised by technologies and milestone discoveries.

Maria Rostovskaya delivered the Sir Michael Berridge lecture covering her work from the publication "Amniogenesis occurs in two independent waves in primates”. Maria’s work answers key evolutionary questions about the changes in the early embryo that give rise to the amnion. In her talk Maria reflected on the sometimes fleeting nature of scientific success and importance of awards like the Sir Michael Berridge Prize in reminding researchers of how far they have come.

To round off the two-day event, prizes are awarded for research excellence, knowledge exchange and commercialisation, public engagement, supporting equality and diversity, research integrity, and creating an engaging scientific image.

This year’s Public Engagement Prize nominees’ activities demonstrate the massive variety of work that the Institute does to engage the public of all ages and backgrounds with the Institute’s work. The Public Engagement prize went to Simon Rudge, Senior Research Associate, for designing and running the Protein Challenge since 2015, which he is in the process of developing into a touring activity. Other nominees included Simon Andrews for hosting the Virus Fighter game, Anne Corcoran for her commitment to public engagement over many years and championing engagement across the Immunology programme, Andrea Lopez and Diane Taylor for attending and delivering a wide variety of public and school-based events, and Jake Cross for his outreach through the Brilliant Club and recently seed funded idea for an autophagy assault course.

The Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation Prize was awarded to James Dooley, Senior Staff Scientist, for his work commercialising research from the Liston lab. James was commended by the judges for his commitment to the project across almost all elements of the process; a focus not just on the translational science, sourcing of CROs and work with clinical collaborators, but also in building and communicating the business proposition. Other nominees included Michael Hinton for his assistance in organising the upcoming Animal Technicians Conference, Rachael Walker for her longstanding commitment to commercialisation of the Flow Cytometry facility, and Beth Cragoe for securing experience in the field of technology transfer through the LifeArc-AUTM Technology Transfer Fellowship.

Yasmeen Al-Mufti and Jake Cross jointly received the equality4success Prize. Earlier this year, they pioneered a campaign to increase PhD stipends at the Institute to parity with other research institutes in Cambridge. Their efforts helped ensure we provide compensation that can support all students, not just those who have access to external support, meaning people from a variety of backgrounds can pursue their PhDs with the Institute.

Human embryo-like structures derived from human embryonic stem cells (blastoid) that form balls of cells with an inside cavity that look very much like blackberries.
Blackberry field

Staff from across the Institute voted for their favourite scientific image, this year’s Image Prize was awarded to Irene Zoran and Teresa Rayon. Named 'Blackberry field' the image shows human embryo-like structures derived from human embryonic stem cells (blastoids) that form balls of cells with an inside cavity that look very much like blackberries. Blue marks all nuclei of the structure, the green label marks the cells that will generate the embryo proper (Nanog), and the pink label is a readout of a ribosomal protein (pS6).

Visit the online gallery to view past winners and entries.

This year saw the introduction of the Award for Contributions to Research Integrity to celebrate work at the Institute to ensure responsible and high-quality research is carried out. The inaugural Prize went to Anne Segonds-Pichon, Biological Statistician, for her work running training for staff. She was particularly commended for her passion for best practice in scientific research and drive to ensure that the institute fosters a supportive environment in which scientists are free to pursue scientific questions in an ethical manner.   

Students and postdocs delivered updates on their scientific progress throughout the event, covering Signalling, Immunology and Epigenetics. The best PhD talk this year went to Jake Cross for presenting his work on the non-canonical autophagy. The postdoc talk prize went to Katie Mullholland from the Sharpe lab for her presentation on oxidative control of tyrosine phosphorylation, and Johanna Giant who presented her work on non-cell-autonomous regulation of cell reprogramming through histone citrullination. The best non-scientific talk went to Cass Flowers and Mike Greenwood for their presentation on the Computing team’s progress this year and future plans.

In addition to presentations, the Lab Talks programme also includes a PhD student poster session where students share their research projects and results with the Institute community. Poster prizes were awarded to first, second, and third year students:

Second year student poster prizes:

2nd place – Jake Cross, ATG8 is conjugated directly to damaged lysosomes via non-canonical autophagy/CASM  

1st place – Olivia Cracknell, Functional regulatory variation in stimulus-responsive macrophage enhancers  

Third year student poster prizes:

2nd prize – Anna Clay, Oncogenic KRAS mutants differentially express KITLG for non-cell autonomous signalling

1st place – Tombi Makuyana, Harnessing T regulatory cells to treat respiratory infections 

Reflecting on this year’s LabTalks, Dr Simon Cook added: “My congratulations go to this year’s prize winners. I would also like to thank Sarah Ross, Rahul Samant, Bobbie Claxton, Michael Hinton and all the staff who support the organisation of the event for all of their hard work and dedication behind the scenes.”

Notes

Contact Honor Pollard, Communications Officer, honor.pollard@babraham.ac.uk