Some interesting reading

This is a shameless plug for the annual volume of essays that my Institute puts out: the Mill Hill Essays. My justification is that a) they are interesting b) they are free to read on the web and we give away print copies, so thy are totally non-commercial and c) I manage and edit them, so I have been living and breathing these essays over a period of several months.

Our tradition of an annual volume of essays was started 15 years ago as an attempt to shed some light for a general audience on scientific issues of topical interest. The essays are written by staff at the Institute, or ex-staff, with occasional guest authors. Sometimes they are topical, usually they are interesting, occasionally both. This year’s collection is bigger than ever, with nine essays plus ten mini-book reviews. I will take you on a canter through them, including some of the images included in the booklet.

The 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic: don’t panic but you are all going to die by Peter Coombs.
Peter is a postdoc in our Virology Division, which includes the WHO Influenza Centre that has a key role in influenza surveillance. He describes the course of the 2009 outbreak of pandemic influenza and what was done to contain the pandemic and characterise the virus.

A dangerous occupation by Zhores Medvedev.
Zhores was a geneticist at the Institute in the 70s and 80s, specialising in ageing. He has also written about the Chernobyl disaster, and Soviet science. He recently showed me a photo of Vladimir Putin presenting an 85th birthday present to his twin brother, Roy Medvedev. In his Mill Hill Essay Zhores describes his early life and education in Soviet Russia during the second world war and immediate post-war years, and the influence of Trofim Lysenko on Soviet science.

This cartoon by Argentinian artist Roberto Bobrow shows Vavilov, Lysenko and Stalin. See his blog for more of his work.

Courtesy of Roberto Bobrow

Bringing it all back home: next-generation sequencing technology and you by Mike Gilchrist.
Mike is a programme leader in our Division of Systems Biology. He gives a brilliant exposition of how high-throughput sequencing works, what it means and what we can learn from its results.

Immortality and obscurity by Harriet Groom.
Harriet is a postdoc in our Division of Virology. This is an essay-review of Rebecca Skloot’s best-selling book about Henrietta Lacks, which won the 2010 Wellcome Trust Book Prize. Harriet explains why HeLa cells are both remarkable and very useful to science.

This portrait depicts Francisco Pizarro, one of the Spanish conquistadors.

Conquistadores and cot death by Marianne Neary.
Marianne is a PhD student in our Division of Developmental Biology. She describes an interesting link between research into cot death and adaptation to life at high altitude. This essay was shortlisted for the Max Perutz Science Writing Award 2010.

Is immunotherapy the ultimate solution for Alzheimer’s Disease? by Marina Lynch.
Marina is a professor at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience in Dublin. She worked at Mill Hill in our Division of Neurophysiology and Neuropharmacology in the 1980s. Her essay explains what Alzheimer’s disease is and how immunological therapies are showing great promise as treatments for Alzheimer’s.

This portrait of Stephen Fry is by Lotte D’Hulster. You can see more of her work on her blog.

Courtesy of Lotte D’Hulster

Lithium, manic depression and beyond by Qiling Xu.
Qiling is a researcher in the Division of Developmental Neurobiology. In her essay she explains the pharmacological effects of lithium, its use in bipolar affective disorder and its effects on major developmental signalling pathways.

Translation: beating scientific swords into medical ploughshares -by John Galloway.
John is Head of the Dental Team Studies Unit at the Eastman Dental Hospital. His essay examines what translational research is and what its role is in bridging the gap between basic biomedical science and clinical benefits for patients.

What makes bone marrow such a versatile resource for curing human diseases? by Thomas Elliott.
Thomas is a student at Queen Elizabeths Boys School. This essay won the 2010 NIMR Human Biology Essay Competition for local schools.

An innovation in the 2010 Mill Hill Essays is the inclusion of a series of short book reviews by Institute staff. These covered quite a range, all on scientIfic topics, from prize-winning popular science books like Life Ascending and The Age of Wonder to books on influenza, medieval science, genetics, and drug research, and ending with a Mikhail Bulgakov novella. We also have a second review of Rebecca Skloot’s book in this section; since someone was kind enough to write it it seemed rude to refuse!  You will also find a few reviews written by me in this section.

Well, that’s it for another year.  I already have some ideas for topics for the next volume, but am always happy to have suggestions for topics we should cover.

About Frank Norman

I am a librarian in a biomedical research institute. I've been around a few years, long enough to know that exciting new things fall into the same familiar patterns. I'm interested in navigating a path for libraries as we move further from print to electronic resources to open research, and become more embedded in research workflows.
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4 Responses to Some interesting reading

  1. ricardipus says:

    That is just so freakin’ cool. What a totally excellent thing to do.

    Sorry, I’ve been temporarily rendered 14 years old by the freakin’ coolness of this.

    These *all* sound interesting and I think I might have to attempt to get my hands on a print copy somehow… 😉 In the meantime, online will do. Once I finish this #%#$%ing grant.

  2. Frank says:

    Richard –

    Thanks! I have never seen the essays as ‘cool’! A copy is in the post.

  3. ricardipus says:

    Frank – thank you. 🙂

    I think I’ve recovered my sanity slightly – I hope so since I’m writing a grant (which will, of course, chuck my sanity out the window again, but that’s a separate issue).

    Did I ever tell you my father lived in Mill Hill for a time? Jenny knows some of the details, and I’m dying to see if any of them leak through into her third book. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Another collection of essays | Trading Knowledge