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May update from CenGEM

Even though May is an intensive month with all the marking and moderation that cenGEM academics do, it has also been a very exciting time for cenGEM members as we engaged with the Brunel Research Festival through the Institute of Health, Medicine and Environment by creating an Art Exhibit of a cross-section of the work we do. The Art Exhibit is called Show & Cell and had many visitors to it in the Hamilton Centre. These visitors were able to gaze upon beautiful bio-images from our experiments using the microscopy facility housed in the Heinz Wolff building, data analysis mapping, and other cellular and biochemical methodologies. This exhibition can be seen on the cenGEM website (Show and Cell | Brunel University London) and will be a semi-permanent exhibit around the university. CenGEM also offered tours to attendees of the festival to the Biosciences Bio-imaging facility. There were 4 in total across 1 day lasting over an hour each and each one contained at least 10 inquisitive BORG (Brunel Older Research Group) visitors. It was exciting to have the public back in building, informing them of all the varied work we do in cells, tissues, diseases, data analysis and treatments. Dr Rhona Anderson’s Centre of Health Effects of Radiological and Chemical Agents ran an interactive exhibition for visitors to pair up chromosomes. Dr Ruth Mackay also gave a presentation on the Organ-on-a-Chip Group’s work.

In CenGEM there are clusters of research interests and there has been some changes of the headship of these and I would like to thank Profs Paola Vagnarelli and Mike Themis for running their clusters of “Genome Organisation & Dynamics” and “Disease & Therapeutics”, respectively so well. They are replaced by Drs Sabrina Tosi and Victor Hernandez. Dr Cristina Pina continues to look after Cancer Mechanisms and Dr Ruth Mackay the Organ-on-a-Chip group. Excitingly, Dr Sara Anjomani-Virmouni will be developing Research Interest Hubs in Rare Diseases and Dr Cristina Sisu in Data Science. We also welcomed Dr Lorraine Ayad from Computational Biology as a new member.

May has also seen some of us move into newly refurbished laboratories within Heinz Wolff, with the upgrading of one of the cell culture facilities, which we thank the College operations and technical teams for. We are looking forward to bringing in new equipment such as the Spinning Disk Confocal Microscope and a Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorter and welcoming new group leaders when they are appointed for the new academic year. Funding that has been activated in the last few months includes monies from the BBSRC (Christian Rudolph), Kidney Research UK (Barbara Tanos), Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance, Government of Balearic Islands and Ataxia UK (Sara Anjomani-Virmouni), The Wolfson Foundation (Cristina Pina), Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Fotios Drenos) and n4pharma (Mike Themis). We are also waiting to hear from a number of pending applications – watch this blog for updates!

We have a number of awards in the student and post-doc body and congratulations goes to Fred Edzeamey and Zeynep Ulukutuk who both received £500 from the postgraduate research fund and Dr Saqlain Suleman for his prize for the best FARA Flash talk, winning $100.

We were fortunate to have a visit to our last centre meeting from the Vice-Provost for Research, Prof. Geoff Rodgers to talk about open access publishing and discuss the next research exercise framework (REF). CenGEM was also happy with our contributions to the recent REF success and continue to write and submit a number of high-quality manuscripts; and have published so far this year in journals such as Scientific Reports, Journal of Personalized Medicine, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Gene Therapy, Genes, Open Biology, Molecular Medicine Reports, Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, Blood Advances, Journal of Astrobiology, Nuclear Medicine and Biology, Circulation and Journal of Virological Methods. 

We also welcomed a new member to our External Advisory Board, Chris Shilling, an alumnus of Brunel, having read Law in the 1980s and now works for the anti-ageing company Juvenescence. Chris will advise on interactions and collaborations with industry for our members and students.

After running 3 very successful external workshops and symposia over the last 2 years in Epigenetics of Cancer, Cilia & Gene Therapy and the South of England Genetic Epidemiology Workshop, cenGEM are ready to the host the Nuclear Envelope and Chromatin Organisation meeting at Brunel in 2023. An external international meeting that has been running in the UK for the last 20 years and was last at Brunel in 2013.

So now the marking and moderation are nearly finished, we look forward to June to work on more articles, ideas, collaborations and grants between the panels and boards, and of course some well-earned weeks of downtime before the resit period in August and grant submission deadlines in September.

Onwards and Upwards,

Jo Bridger

Director of CenGEM

Quote: Just One Living Cell in the Human Body is More Complex than New York City – Linus Pauling.