Two rising research stars at the University of Exeter have been awarded prestigious fellowships from the Medical Research Council (MRC).
Dr Jamie Walker and Wessel Woldman are mathematicians based within the University’s Wellcome Trust supported Centre for Biomedical Modelling and Analysis, and have received substantial grants from the MRC to not only enhance their careers, but also to pioneer world-leading research in their fields.
Dr Walker has received a five-year MRC Career Development Award, which will allow him to establish a new multidisciplinary research laboratory at the University. His team will combine mathematical modelling with experimental biology techniques to address key questions in the field of neuroendocrinology and stress physiology.
Speaking about the award, Dr Walker said: “I am very excited to have received this support from the MRC. It will give me the time and resources to establish a laboratory here in Exeter, which I feel is an exciting place to be right now as a biomedical scientist.
“In our research, we are using a variety of experimental and mathematical techniques to tackle key questions about the dynamic function of the hormonal stress-response system. We want to establish how and why the dynamics of this vital system breaks down in disease, and how these disrupted hormone dynamics affect our physiological and mental well-being. Ultimately, we hope to use this information to design novel therapeutic strategies to manipulate the behaviour of the system in a clinical setting.”
Wessel Woldman has also been awarded an MRC Skills Development Fellowship, which is designed to support early career researchers to explore, consolidate and develop their skills. The award is worth £260,000.
Wessel’s research will help pioneer new methods for diagnosing chronic health conditions such as epilepsy using complex, state-of –the-art mathematical modelling. The research will offer new insights into what causes the debilitating condition, and both help improve accuracy of diagnosis and also aid in the creation of personalised treatment plans.
Wessel said: “I am delighted to have been awarded this Fellowship, which provides me with an exciting opportunity to shift the focus and revolutionise the way in which we diagnose epilepsy.”
“The research will help us look beyond how we currently look at brain activity to determine if someone is prone to seizures, and into the mechanisms of the seizures itself. In essence, we are looking at how we can provide a better understanding of the diagnosis, treatment and possible cures for epilepsy in the future.”
Professor John Terry, who is co-Director of the Centre for Biomedical Modelling and Analysis and Director of the recently funded EPSRC Centre for Predictive Modelling in Healthcare said: “These awards are an outstanding achievement for Jamie and Wessel, and recognition for the outstanding research they are undertaking. They further reflect the University’s growing reputation for identifying and nurturing the careers of outstanding young scientists.”