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Ambassadors update: Extending and celebrating the importance of pharmacology in London

Published: 20 Apr 2017
By Aisah Aubdool

Firstly, I would like to thank the British Pharmacological Society for giving me an opportunity to be an ambassador, creating or supporting activities both at King’s College London (where I was based until 2016) and Queen Mary University of London (where I am now based). This pilot scheme, running June 2015 until June 2017 as set out in Pharmacology Matters last year, is enabling me and other ambassadors to spread the awareness and importance of pharmacology locally. In this issue, I would like to highlight some of the events at King’s College London.

Ahead of Women’s History Month in March, we organised a Women in Pharmacology event to celebrate the achievements of female pharmacologists at King’s College London (KCL). This event was a collaboration between British Pharmacological Society, KCL Bioscience Students’ Association and KCL Pharmacological Society. 

The event was opened by an engaging talk from Dr Julie Keeble, a lecturer at KCL and the chief scientist at International Space School Educational Trust. Dr Keeble’s enthusiasm for public engagement and outreach, in addition to her pharmacology research, allowed her to build a collaboration with the International Space Station (ISS) where she works with talented young people, to design a pharmacological experiment that can be carried out in the ISS! Audience members were equally inspired and thrilled to learn about Dr Keeble’s journey into public engagement. 

Dr Manasi Nandi, a senior lecturer in Integrative Pharmacology at KCL, gave an insightful talk about the hurdles, challenges, and determination that is required to pursue a career in academia; her honest and candid portrayal of her journey from researcher to lecturer was informative and highlighted the crucial role of the Society in career development. Dr Nandi’s current research is centered on developing translatable preclinical models, and refining research models to understand cardiovascular diseases and improve experimental animal welfare. 

The third speaker, Dr Christina Warboys, a research fellow at Imperial College London, provided the early career researcher perspective to the audience. Dr Warboys talked about her journey into recently gaining a British Heart Foundation Intermediate Research fellowship in January 2016. Dr Warboys' research focuses on understanding the mechanisms by which endothelial cells sense and respond to disturbed flow. Dr Warboys' talk was inspirational and she succeeded in defying her own expectations through perseverance, positivity and determination. She emphasized that regardless of your chosen career path, the role of a mentor is beneficial and certainly helpful for the next career transition. 

I’m pleased to share a few quotes from the speaker and attendees:

Dr Julie Keeble: “The KCL Women in Pharmacology evening was a fantastic opportunity to discuss career opportunities in science with students and young scientists in an informal, relaxed atmosphere. A lot of students were very keen to get involved in outreach activities at KCL and it was great to be able to involve some of them in schools’ activities following the event.”

Nurjahan Saleque, a BBSRC-funded PhD student at KCL: “When I attended the event, I was a final year undergraduate student. The speakers were very engaging and I appreciated their honesty in how they all, as women, were able to balance a career in research with other aspects of life such as outreach and having a family. In turn, I became involved with the mission discovery programme, run by Dr Keeble for school children, and have embarked on a PhD. I hope to attend more events such as these throughout my PhD to facilitate my achieving a successful career as a woman in science.”

Fulye Argunhan, a MRC-funded PhD student at KCL: “The event was very much informal and the speakers were extremely approachable. I appreciated the advice from Dr Manasi Nandi. Whilst listening to the speakers, I learnt that perseverance was the major player in their success, as well as ‘saying yes’ to opportunities that come your way, even if initially it does not sit well with you! I felt emotionally connected and inspired, and found the event very informative.”

In December 2016, KCL Biomedical Society hosted a Careers Symposium, which was supported by the British Pharmacological Society. The event was a successful meeting that attracted not only undergraduate students from KCL, but other regional universities. This event was a great opportunity for the undergraduate students to meet pharmacology lecturers and early career researchers, and to learn more about careers in pharmacology, at both in academia and industry. 

The materials provided by the British Pharmacological Society were greatly appreciated by the students. The informal session encouraged the students to not only learn about pharmacology and the opportunities available to them, but also about different cultures, backgrounds and personal characteristics that shapes an energetic pharmacological scientific community. Dr Khadija Alawi, a postdoctoral researcher at KCL, has a strong devotion to the science of pharmacology and was invited to speak about her academic career, and the students were inspired to find more opportunities to enhance their educational and career opportunities.

Pharmacology's Got Talent, KCL, February 2017

In February 2017, KCL held the Pharmacology’s Got Talent competition and the British Pharmacological Society supported the winner prizes. This event was well organized by both Professor Susan Brain and Dr Susan Duty, and attracted talented young undergraduate and postgraduate students. The audience was lively and engaged, hosted by the comperes, Drs Susan Duty and Andy Grant, who provided an ‘Ant & Dec’ style of hosting. The judges consisted of Professor Ian McFadzean, Dr Yanira Vasquez and PhD student Lizzie Mann. 

The Animal Models Choir, led by the choirmaster Dr Aileen King, kicked off the event with a light-hearted in vivo-orientated parody of Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’. We also witnessed artistic performances ranging from piano to electric guitar, to Russian dancing. The event ended with some ‘pharmacological’ jokes from Professor Ian McFadzean. The feedback from the event was resoundingly positive. 

Professor Susan Brain, Head of Pharmacology at KCL: “The Pharmacology’s Got Talent event recently was a first for our Department and brought together a capacity audience. There were nine acts and we were delighted that the prizes were donated by the British Pharmacological Society Ambassador for KCL, Dr Aisah Aubdool. The evening showcased some exceptional talents, which made the decision of the judges very difficult. I thank everyone who was involved in making the evening such a success. The winner was Sophie Kim, with runner-up Kyle Dewar-Mckay and third prize went to Xenia Kodji.”

Xenia Kodji, AJ Clark PhD student at KCL and third prize winner: “Pharmacology’s Got Talent enriched everyone's Friday evening with music and laughter. Contributions came from students and lecturers, with scientific jokes included in honour of pharmacology and medicine, and a supportive audience put the performers at ease. Overall, a wonderful evening which highlights the multi-talented members of the pharmacology staff and students.”

Pratish Thakore, KCL GTA-funded Phd Student: “The highlight of the evening was the 'choir': never has animal research been sung so majestically! The only thing missing from the evening was an ileum stringing up contest."


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About the author

Aisah is a postdoctoral researcher in the Heart Centre at The William Harvey Research Institute, where she studies the role of endothelial C-type natriuretic peptide in angiogenesis and vascular remodeling in the lab of Professor Adrian Hobbs. Prior to this, she graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Pharmacology and completed her MRes and PhD studies in Cardiovascular Medical Research under the supervision of Professor Susan Brain at King’s College London. Her doctoral research concerned the role of TRPA1 in the vasculature. Aisah has been a STEM ambassador since 2010 and BPS Ambassador since 2015.