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Interview: Vincent O’Connor

2 Mar

interview: Amberley Stephens                              text: Alex Oldman

Vincent O'Connor: a self-portrait

Vincent O’Connor originally applied for medicine, and failed to get the grades…yes he is a failed medic! However his reason for choosing medicine was purely because it was a ‘good professional career’. Luckily for us he didn’t go down that path! He took time out to reapply and revaluate his future during which he travelled, skied and worked in the dole office.

Vincent got into Medicine after applying for a second time. However, the University of Reading looked far more appealing, offering a degree in Physiology and Biochemistry. His choice of course was inspired by a fundamental interest in science which had come from working in a lab as a technician at weekends and during the summer. Vincent took the place at Reading University and after a year out went on to do a PhD at UCL where his interest in neurochemistry and cellular receptors grew. He moved to Frankfurt with his wife and small child to work at the Max Plank Institute (MPI) for Brain Research. He was there for six years, and almost unbelievably Vincent didn’t learn any German, claiming that it was unnecessary to learn the language! He then progressed with his research and read into synaptic plasticity at the National Institute for medical research before coming to Southampton in 1999.

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Interview: Keith Fox

2 Mar

interview: Amberley Stephens                                                    text: Alex Oldman

Keith Fox: a self-portrait

According to the man himself, Keith Fox was ‘crap at everything’ when it came to school work. From being placed a shocking 28 out of 30 in his chemistry class at the age of 13, it is hard to believe that he would go on to become a highly learned scholar and well respected scientist. However that all changed due to his Chemistry teacher, who ignited his keen interest in the chemical world and instilled in him a great scientific passion. Needless to say, he excelled during his A level years and climbed the 28 places to the top of his class.

Keith read Natural Sciences at Cambridge and originally intended to focus on Physics. However, he rapidly changed his mind and took Chemistry as his main subject, which subsequently morphed into Biochemistry in his final year. Keith is still clearly a devoted Cambridge alumni, telling us he that he rejected Oxford for no real reason, only stating that ‘Cambridge is better than Oxford’. He stayed in Cambridge for his PhD which he did in the department of Pharmacology; during this time he took undergraduate supervisions in Biochemistry and Pharmacology, which helped pay the rent. In order to understand Pharmacology, which he didn’t study as an undergraduate, he read ‘Bowman and Rand’ Pharmacology, often taking this to bed with him to keep one step ahead of the students!

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$100,000 grant for new vaccines

2 Mar

by Ben Good

Bill Gates Facilitates the Opening of a New Window in Vaccine Research.

The School of Biological Sciences has just been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fund the designing of new vaccines at the university.

The grant is for the microbiologist Dr Jeremy Webb and his team who are trying to design a vaccine that will provide protection from pneumonia and meningitis. During infection the bacteria assemble together to form what is known as a biofilm, this acts as a defence mechanism against antibi¬otics and the host’s immune system. Dr Webb and his colleagues are seeking to identify proteins that allow the biofilms to form in humans with the aim of finding a possible target for vaccines.

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