Dr Marisol Vazquez
PhD in Biosciences, 2013
From Buenos Aires
We talked to Dr Marisol Vasquez after she presented her research to politicians and expert judges in the Houses of Parliament as part of SET for Britain 2014.
Dr Vasquez showcased her research on the development of a new 3D laboratory-based model of bone that aims to discover more effective treatments for bone diseases.
Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, she is now living in Wales.
Can you briefly describe your research area?
My research area mixes bone biology, biomechanics and tissue engineering. For my PhD thesis, I developed a new 3D laboratory-based model of bone to investigate the process of bone formation and its use to discover more effective treatments for bone diseases.
How did you get involved with SET for Britain? Tell us a bit about the application and shortlisting process.
My PhD supervisor was informed about the awards and suggested I apply to take part. I immediately decided to apply to take part in SET for Britain as I am a keen scientific communicator and saw it as an amazing opportunity to discuss my research with members of Parliament who hold the key to the future of scientific research in the UK.
I had to submit both a scientific and layman's terms abstracts, my CV with all my previous research and scientific communication experience, and a reference letter from my PhD supervisor. The abstracts were scored by scientists on whether the submission was well written and could be understood on the first reading by a lay audience, how long the candidate had been working on the project, the novelty and/or importance of the work, and the difficulty and/or complexity of the project.
There were 230 applicants for the biomedical session (the one I applied for) and only 60 were invited to attend the event and compete for a prize. I made the 60 and the judges informed me on the day of the event that my abstract was one of the highest scored. Although I didn't win a prize, I was extremely proud I made it through to the event and made the top 10 candidates list out of the 60 presenting.
Tell us about your experience after being shortlisted from hundreds to present your research to politicians? How does this experience benefit your research?
Being shortlisted to attend the event was super exciting. The event itself was well organised, everyone was really friendly including MPs and judges, and we also had the opportunity to meet past winners. It was a great event to network as well which is always good for any research area as this is how you can form new collaborations and take your research further.
I personally made the point of talking to as many MPs as possible about the lack of money the government puts into research in general. Most of the little money available goes to the big diseases such as cancer with very small amounts going to ageing diseases which affect just as many people in the UK, like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.
I think this event was a great opportunity for me to talk to MPs about putting more money into research and that this money should be more equally distributed to different research areas.
Any interesting trivia about the House of Commons you'd like to share?
The setting of the event was great, we were on a terrace of the House of Commons with an amazing view of the Thames and the London Eye, just beautiful... and the food (nibbles, sandwiches and cakes) was really great!
What are your plans for the future?
Having passed my PhD, I am currently doing some lecturing and demonstrating for bioscience and medicine students while looking for a post-doc to carry on within the bone biology field and work my way up to professorship.
The dream would be to have my own lab with students and other post-docs doing interdisciplinary research within the remit of bone, biomechanics and tissue engineering.
Any closing words for our alumni community?
To any science lovers, geeks and graduates, I highly encourage you to get involved with public engagement and scientific communication.
The public has a huge influence on what we do and how we carry out our research, so keeping them informed of exactly what we do can only benefit us in the long run. Plus, who knows, you might end up being the next Professor Brian Cox getting everyone excited about your own research field!