Imperial College London

Celebrating NHLI’s 2020 academic promotions

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academics

The National Heart and Lung Institute is delighted that seven of our academics have been recognised in the latest round of promotions across Imperial.

"Communicating science and encouraging a new generation of scientists are really important aspects of our work" Dr Cecilia Johansson

As we celebrate this year’s academic promotions, Professor Edwin Chilvers, Head of NHLI, comments  “It’s always a great moment when the results of the College’s annual round of promotions are announced. I am again delighted to see such a wonderful outcome for the NHLI.  We have seen success at Senior Lecturer, Professor of Practice, Reader and full Professor level; my congratulations to all!”.

I got in touch with all seven of our successful candidates to find out more about them and their research.

Graeme Birdsey, promoted to Senior Lecturer in Vascular Science

CAN YOU GIVE ME A RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT?

I have recently been awarded funding from the British Heart Foundation to explore the transcriptional regulation of lymphatic endothelial cell gene expression in healthy tissue, as well as in the pathogenesis of primary lymphoedema. Disruption of the lymphatics is an important contributor to the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease - but little is known about the role of transcription factor networks in this area. In many patients the genetic causes of lymphoedema are unknown so we aim to use genomic sequencing data to identify mutations in transcriptional pathways that regulate lymphatic gene expression in these patients. Our studies will help widen an understanding of the transcriptional regulation of genes involved in the pathogenesis of primary lymphatic diseases and may identify novel genes involved in lymphatic vessel regulation

WHAT ASPECT OF YOUR WORK OUTSIDE OF RESEARCH DO YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOY?

In addition to my research, I am a module leader on the undergraduate Cardiovascular Sciences course for medics. My role involves coordinating the student’s project placements. This can be a challenging task, but we are incredibly lucky that every year so many research groups and clinical teams in the NHLI provide novel and exciting projects for the students to participate in. This year everyone rose to the occasion during the lockdown to adapt projects to remote learning at such short notice. It was so gratifying to see that even under these extenuating circumstances our students performed so well and quickly embraced the new methods of online learning and research.

TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF.

When not working, I enjoy cooking in my spare time. I love to explore new recipes and have been learning to cook authentic Chinese food from my wife who comes from mainland China. The recipes from her hometown are very different from the typical Chinese food that we eat in the UK and normally contain lots of chillies! It has been really inspiring to hear from her that my cooking of Chinese food is even better than hers. Sadly, I have only learnt a few Chinese words from her, which is something I need to improve in the future!

Find our more about Dr Graeme Birdsey and his research.

Adam Byrne, promoted to Senior Lecturer in Chronic Lung Disease

CAN YOU GIVE ME A RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT?

My work focuses on chronic lung disease such as asthma and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a disease which results in scarring of the lungs making it difficult to breath. Recently we discovered that a metabolite which is present in healthy lungs, is missing in IPF. We found that this metabolite (called itaconate) has anti-fibrotic properties and may be useful as a therapy during IPF, which currently has no cure. 

WHAT ASPECT OF YOUR WORK OUTSIDE OF RESEARCH DO YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOY?

I really enjoy supervising Master’s and PhD students, it’s very rewarding to see them grow and achieve their goals.

TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF.

I like sports and Whiskey (preferably together).

Find out more about Dr Adam Byrne and his research.

Louise Fleming, promoted to Reader in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine

CAN YOU GIVE ME A RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT?

One of my interests is in remote monitoring of asthma. I have recently completed a study with one of our pharmacists Sukeshi Makhecha. We assessed the feasibility and acceptability of four novel electronic monitoring devices and are now going to take this forward to a randomised controlled trial. I am also part of a successful £1.5million NIHR Artificial intelligence (AI grant). We will be developing a device to monitor children with severe asthma during sleep. These digital platforms have the potential to lead to a step change in asthma care. The current pandemic has highlighted the pressing need for such innovations. 

WHAT ASPECT OF YOUR WORK OUTSIDE OF RESEARCH DO YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOY?

I am part of the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) Science Committee. This is an international body which develops an annual strategy for asthma management and prevention. I enjoy working with people at the forefront of asthma care in high, middle and low income countries. The GINA 2019 report introduced fundamental changes in the way that asthma in managed in adults and adolescents, and introduced a pocket guide for severe asthma. A pocket guide for younger children with severe asthma is in progress and I am passionate about ensuring we have good quality data to inform guidelines for children.

TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF.

I have an allotment and grow a wide range of crops. My children are particularly good at growing pumpkins and we were proud winners of the Paediatric respiratory pumpkin competition. Our prize winning pumpkin weighed over 20kg!

Find out more about Dr Louise Fleming and her research.

Cecilia Johansson, promoted to Reader in Respiratory Immunology

CAN YOU GIVE ME A RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT? 

My research interests are immune responses to respiratory viral infections. This is of course very much in the spotlight right now with the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. We still do not understand what underlies severe disease during lung viral infections and my team is studying the onset and regulation of immune responses and inflammation. We aim to increase fundamental knowledge that can lead to therapeutic advances in the future.

WHAT ASPECT OF YOUR WORK OUTSIDE OF RESEARCH DO YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOY?

Communicating science and encouraging a new generation of scientists are really important aspects of our work. I run the Imperial CREST Academy. In this scheme we provide mentors (postdocs and PhD student from Imperial) for extracurricular science projects for 16-18 year old students. Currently we are working with ten schools and more than 30 mentors, supporting around 100 students each year.

TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF.

My favourite place in the whole world is an island in the Swedish archipelago, in the northernmost part of the Baltic Sea. In the winter, I can see the Northern lights while in the summer I have the midnight sun. It’s a magical place!

Find out more about Dr Cecilia Johansson and her research.

Wei Li, promoted to Professor of Practice (Adult Congenital Heart Disease and Echocardiography)

CAN YOU GIVE ME A RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT?

My research interest focuses on integrated cardiac physiology in patients with congenital heart or structural heart disease, and pulmonary artery hypertension (PAH), using my imaging expertise. My research projects have resulted in high impact publications and made important contributions for the improvement of our patient care. As one of the world leaders in this expanding cardiovascular imaging field, I was the senior author on the latest ACHD Echocardiography Guidelines commissioned by the International Society of Adult Congenital Heart Disease, the largest professional body in the field.

At work, I enjoy 'heated discussions' with my heart imaging research colleagues as we all love the healthy competition towards better care for our patients!

WHAT ASPECT OF YOUR WORK OUTSIDE OF RESEARCH DO YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOY?

I am a passionate advocate of enhancing the standards of Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) Echocardiography through my work on the European accreditation committee. At present I am working with the British Society of Echocardiography to establish accreditation in this field in the UK. I’ve developed training programmes for international attendees.

TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF.

I love gardening - especially over the past few months of lockdown. Cooking for friends and families is my real pleasure, my gyoza are both famous and popular.

Find out more about Dr Wei Li and her research.

Jennifer Quint, promoted to Professor of Respiratory Epidemiology

CAN YOU GIVE ME A RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT?

Most of what I had been working on, and planned to work on, has been usurped by the COVID-19 pandemic. What’s wonderful about being a respiratory epidemiologist with an expertise in using routine electronic health record data is the ability to adapt methods to any disease, and my expertise in methodology and coding has been called upon heavily in recent months at a national level. My highlight over the past year has been chopping and changing, and adapting, and not quite knowing what the most important topic is going to be from one month to the next. The element of surprise!

WHAT ASPECT OF YOUR WORK OUTSIDE OF RESEARCH DO YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOY?

Teaching. I’m loving my role as research skills domain lead across the medical school curriculum and having the ability to enthuse and inspire the next generation of clinicians and clinical academics.

TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF.

My daughter and I regularly have our own bake off at the weekends, she’s only 12 but usually wins!

Find out more about Professor Jennifer Quint and her research.

Paul Turner, promoted to Reader in Paediatric Allergy and Clinical Immunology

CAN YOU GIVE ME A RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT?

Our work focuses on what happens when someone has anaphylaxis, and specifically, why some people react much more badly (even fatally) whilst most do not. We have just published detailed data from a study of 57 adults with peanut allergy who had allergic reactions - one third of which were anaphylaxis. We found that the amount of blood returning to the heart is reduced in all reactions, irrespective of severity - however, in most people, the heart rate increased to maintain the overall amount of blood being pumped out by the heart (known as cardiac output). These data suggest a new paradigm for understanding severity in anaphylaxis, where poor outcomes may be due not to the allergic "insult", but a failure of the person to compensate for the allergic reaction. The study was funded by the UK Medical Research Council with additional support from the UK Food Standards Agency, European Commission and National Institute for Health Research. 

WHAT ASPECT OF YOUR WORK OUTSIDE OF RESEARCH DO YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOY?

I am leading a major review in Food Hypersensitivity Research in the UK for the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), which I hope will help set the UK's research agenda in Food Allergy over the next decade.

TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF.

I highly recommend the "Rivers of London" series of books by Ben Aaronovitch. If only I had the skillset of Peter Grant an apprentice wizard in the Met Police!

Find out more about Dr Paul Turner and his research.


You can find out more about the research across the National Heart and Lung Institute on our research webpages.

Want to study with us?

Find out more on our study pages

Reporter

Ms Helen Johnson

Ms Helen Johnson
National Heart & Lung Institute

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6843
Email: helen.johnson@imperial.ac.uk

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