In preparation of the 70th anniversary celebrations at the special Spring Meeting in Warwick (15-18 April 2018), the student and postdoc representatives of the BSDB, Alexandra Ashcroft and Michelle Ware, initiated a writing competition for graduate student and postdoc members who were asked to write a max 500 word piece on one of the following topics:
- The future of Developmental Biology
- What Developmental Biology has contributed to society
- The experiment/paper in Developmental Biology that most inspired you
12 excellent submission entered the competition and were judged by Katherine Brown, Aidan Maartens, Ottoline Leyser and Jonathan Slack. The first prize, a free trip to and attendance of the 77th Annual Society of Developmental Biology meeting (Portland, Oregon, USA) was announced at the Spring Meeting’s conference dinner. The BSDB would like to congratulate the winner Daniyal Jafree (@daniyal_jafree). Please, read below and let yourself inspire by the submissions we received.
The winner Daniyal Jafree is a medical 1st year PhD student working on the project “Unravelling the origins of the kidney lymphatics” in the group of Dr David Long at UCL. In his piece he writes about a paper by Paul Riley from 2015 which addresses the development and function of the cardiac lymphatic system. Danyial’s piece is a wonderful example of how good DB research has induced a paradigm shift in the cardiac field, but also profoundly changed the career of a young researcher. As Danyial writes at the end: “This paper inspired me so much that I contacted Professor Riley to ask whether he had any free positions in this lab. Sadly, he didn’t. But, funnily enough, I am now tackling a PhD in lymphatic biology at my own university, integrated into my medical degree. And guess who I’m collaborating with!”
Laura Hankins (runner up; Dunn school, Oxford) relates childhood memories of observing newts at the pond with the transplantation experiments performed in newts by Hilde Mangold and Hans Spemann – the experiments that sparked Laura’s interest in Dev Biol. She reminds us of the fact that our science is more than the focus on disease and sustainability, but concerns true biology and the wonders of nature around us. And she alerts our technology-focussed minds to the fact that there is an art and beauty in experimental design whatever method we use. As Laura comments towards the end: “This experiment is inspiring partly due to the minimalism of its approach; it demonstrates that the most influential experiments are designed without unnecessary embellishment.”
Victoria Rook (runner up; PhD at Queen Mary, London) takes a very different, critical view at the future, elegantly framed by comparing current developments in cloning and the use of chimerae and genomic engineering to the dystopian science fiction book “Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood. Weighing optimism against pessimism, she ends with the words: “Soon we will have the resources to cure numerous genetic diseases and, in theory, the ability to improve the lives and health of generations to come. The unease comes with how far we are liable to take this, is a dystopian future where ‘pigoons’ and ‘crakers’ run wild within our reach, or will they remain a thing of fiction?”
See also a selection further submissions:
Kane Toh Qin uses Conrad Waddington epigenetic landscape proposed in the 1940s as an example to project from the past to the presence and beyond.
Emilio Mendez describes how learning about limb bud transplantation experiments performed by Ross G. Harrison in the 1920 inspired his passion for Developmental Biology.
Amanda Berg looks at the future of humans in space and the colonisation of other planets, and the need to investigate the possibility of reproduction and embryonic development away from earth.
Caitlin McQueen describes how she was influenced by the publications on nuclear transfer experiments carried out by John Gurdon in Xenopus laevis intestinal cells.
Massimo Ganassi talks about the difficulty and importance of communicating our science.
Anna Klucnika alerts to the need of communicating DB and provides some thoughts how to do it.
Sandra G González Malagon asks the fundamental question of what DB has contributed to society.