By Charlotte Davison
First place is a fast becoming familiar for PhD student Holly Newton. She won a travel grant to attend a conference in Japan where she went on to win the poster competition. Back on home soil, she scooped another prize for the same poster at the MRC London Institute of Medical Science’s (LMS) annual retreat.
Newton’s poster portrays her research on why people with advanced cancer feel unable to eat, and why their fat and muscle tissues waste away. The condition, known as cancer-associated cachexia (CAC), causes 20-40% of cancer-related deaths, says Newton.
“My specific project is trying to identify new factors secreted by tumours which might be important in causing cancer-associated cachexia,” she elaborated. Newton works in the LMS Metabolism and Cell Growth group where she uses the fruit fly Drosophila as a model of the condition in people.
She was able to travel to the Asia-Pacific Drosophila Research Conference, at the University of Osaka, Japan, after being awarded a travel grant from the Company of Biologists. The conference is in its fourth year and attracts some 400 researchers. Also representing the LMS at the event was Susumu Hirabayashi, Netwon’s supervisor and group head.
Newton competed against 200 other PhD students and post-docs at the conference. She says, “I was so surprised. I didn’t expect to win the poster competition because there were so many other people presenting excellent research.”
Her poster was printed on soft fabric and succinctly summarised her research. Findings were presented in a clean layout with neatly labelled diagrams and striking images split into sections that told the story of her science. The prize was 30,000 Japanese Yen, equivalent to just over 200 pounds sterling.
Back in London, Newton presented her poster again at the LMS retreat. Group heads Mathieu Latreille, Simona Parrinello and Peter Sarkies judged the posters on their clarity and presentation style. Newton won first place and was awarded the Rosa Beddington Poster Prize.
Rosa Beddington was a biologist who focused on embryo development and stem cells, in what was a short but fruitful career. She died aged 45 in 2001. The LMS poster competition is named in her honour. Every year winners receive a selection of framed puzzle pieces which, if put together with all of the other pieces, would form the front page of one of Beddington’s scientific articles. Newton won four framed pieces which symbolize that her work is now part of a bigger picture.