Winner of SCI Westminster Medal at SET for Britain - Maelíosa McCrudden Interview

8 Apr 2016

The London Regional Group supports SET for Britain by providing funding for the Westminster Medal in honour of Dr Wharton, who served as the Group's Chairman and was an active committee member until his death in 2007. This year the Medal was awarded to Maelíosa McCrudden. Here she tells us about herself.

I am a postdoctoral research fellow (PDRF) in the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University, Belfast (QUB). I graduated with my PhD in Biochemistry in 2008 from QUB and have held postdoctoral positions in University College Dublin (UCD) 2008-2009) and then in the Centre for Infection and Immunity at QUB (2009-2012). I have held my current position within the School of Pharmacy since 2012.

My post-doctoral research within this research team has focused on transdermal delivery of active drug compounds using novel microneedle (MN) technologies. I have worked with both drug loaded dissolving MN and swellable MN, used in combination with drug reservoirs.

Photo: Westminster Medal Winner Maelíosa McCrudden (middle). Courtesy of John Deehan Photography

As the most senior postdoctoral research fellow in our research team, I have also been heavily involved in the supervision of undergraduate and postgraduate students during their time in the laboratory, in addition to training new personnel. My other responsibilities include administration of grants and project funds, in addition to laboratory management duties, including stock taking and equipment maintenance.

I have been involved in undergraduate teaching within the School of Pharmacy, having given lectures to second and third year undergraduates and I’ve also hosted small group tutorials.

Why did you decide to present a poster at SET for Britain?

I have always been interested in communicating my work and science to a wider audience, especially bearing in mind that MN will, in time, be used by this wider audience. As such, I have been actively involved in various outreach programmes throughout my postdoctoral career, including acting as lead co-ordinator of our BBSRC sponsored Great British Bioscience Festival exhibit in London in Nov 2014 and also spearheading our involvement in a Research Council UK’s (RCUK) School-University Partnership Initiative (SUPI) with other colleagues here at QUB. As such, when I heard about SET for Britain, I was very excited to potentially have the opportunity to present my work to fellow scientists from all over the country and also politicians and parliamentarians. I’m always keen to highlight the importance of the work we’re carrying out in QUB and this provided a perfect platform to do just that.

Can you describe your experience of being at the event?

The event was well organised and structured with plenty of time to interact with fellow scientists, judges and politicians. The venue was, at first, slightly overwhelming, especially as you almost felt like you are going through airport security upon entering the building! But as soon as I got inside and met the ladies presenting their posters beside me, the nerves settled and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. The judges were very engaging and asked lots of interesting and pertinent questions. I also had the opportunity to meet other postdocs, PhD students and academics and it was lovely to interact with them and learn more about their exciting research. When the judges left the room to deliberate, we all indulged in a glass of wine and casually chatted. Not for a second did I think I would win either my division or indeed the overall award. I was overwhelmed and delighted. I soaked up the atmosphere as best I could and took in my surroundings as I left - I don’t think this kind of thing happens to you twice!

How do you feel about winning not only a Gold medal in the Biological and Biomedical sciences exhibition, but also the Westminster medal?

I was genuinely overwhelmed to win both awards. To be honest, I don’t think the surprise and delight of having won the Mendel medal had even sunk in when I was announced as the winner of the Westminster award also. To say you could have knocked me down with a feather is the absolute truth! I was delighted, just delighted! I feel that this recognition and these accolades reflect not solely on my efforts however but also on those of the dedicated team of colleagues I work with in the laboratory. We as a research team have been thrilled.

What are your onward plans in your research and career?

I really do enjoy bench science and as such will continue on with my postdoctoral research in this exciting field. This will of course involve writing, conference presentations, working with stakeholders, in addition to other publication work. I have always enjoyed the outreach and public engagement work I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in and the people I’ve met through these activities and so I will continue with these and explore more opportunities for engaging others with the work I do.

In terms of career progression, I want to explore the opportunity to continue on with academic science while also exploring science communication strategies and prospects.

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