Multiple sclerosis and marine life research to benefit from Livery Company awards

Two researchers from Swansea University have won travel grants from the Worshipful Livery Company of Wales, which will allow them to take their research further and share it with other experts.

Kristen Hawkins works on multiple sclerosis and William Kay studies the impact of marine renewable energy developments on seal populations.

Both will now be able to take part in important research activities to advance their work, thanks to total funding of £1,000 from the Livery Company, following a competition open to Swansea University researchers at the start of a career.

Both winners were recently invited to a special awards dinner, hosted by The Company at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff, where their awards were presented to them by Professor John Solbé.

One of the goals of The Worshipful Livery Company of Wales, founded in 1993, is to “promote education, science, technology and the arts in Wales”. It does this by helping young people across Wales to develop their talents and skills through an annual program of scholarships and scholarships to students at schools, universities and technical colleges, as well as apprentices and young people in the armed forces.

Kristen Hawkins, based at the medical school, explained how the fellowship would support her research into multiple sclerosis (MS):

“My project aims to understand the role of oxysterols in MS. Oxysterols are compounds formed from cholesterol, a compound we all have and need in our bodies. However, we believe its breakdown/manufacturing may malfunction in MS.

Thanks to the scholarship, I can undertake a week-long visit to the MS Tissue Bank at Imperial College London, which contains the largest collection of human MS brain tissue samples in the world.

I will be able to prepare brain tissue samples and obtain cerebrospinal fluid from their unique collection, in collaboration with Professor Richard Nicholas. Adding these new tissue samples will help me advance my research. I will also present my research to MS specialists in the department.

William Kay of the College of Science will share his research virtually at a major international expert conference:

“We are facing a climate emergency. One of the main ways to mitigate climate change is to support the production of green electricity, for example through the development of marine renewable energies (MRE). However, MRE developments may threaten some of our most important marine life, including seals.

I am researching the behavior and movement of seals in tidal environments around Wales that are targeted for MRE developments, to reduce the risk of detrimental interaction between the two.

I monitor seals using bio-recording devices developed at Swansea University. Using these, I can assess the potential risk posed by MRE developments and help advise on mitigation measures to minimize conflicts. My findings will help protect marine life and support the MRE industry by informing consent processes.

The scholarship means that I can attend and present my research at the most prestigious research conference in my field. This is an opportunity to present my research, talk to regulators and learn from experts in the MRE industry, but also to highlight exciting developments in the field here in Wales.

Sylvia Robert-Sargeant, one of the judges of this competition, in awarding these prizes to Kristen and William, said:

“One of The Company’s objectives is to encourage and support students in the progress of a specific project. We raise funds through various charity events and also by reaching out, not only to our Liverymen for financial support, but also to the wider Wales community by inviting Welsh business circles, foundations and other organizations interested in promoting education, science, technology and the arts in Wales, to support our activities.

These two exciting projects illustrate how such cutting-edge work can make a vital contribution to medical and environmental research in Wales. We are also delighted to be able to support Kristen and William in their efforts to establish and develop links with other experts in their fields.

Learn more about the Worshipful Livery Company of Wales

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