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Javi Uceda Fernandez (PhD 2018) came to Cardiff University in the summer of 2013 on a placement to Professor Simon Jones’ laboratory at the Systems Immunity Research Institute.

His incredible energy, constant positivity, and bright outlook meant he was a hugely popular member of the institute.

Simon and his colleagues were delighted to welcome Javi back to Cardiff to study for his PhD, where he excelled, becoming an indispensable colleague and friend.

Following his PhD, Javi joined the staff as a post doc researcher.

His work focussed on the immune system and how proteins, known as cytokines, contribute to the control of bacterial infections and the development of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases.

However, during a 12-week industry placement, Javi tragically and suddenly passed away.

His death was a huge shock to his colleagues at Cardiff – his enthusiasm, optimism and focused outlook was hugely missed.

Shortly after his passing, Javi’s parents, Luis and Espe, decided to set up a scholarship in his memory to help other early-career researchers.

Simon and his team were determined that the scholarships needed to replicate Javi’s career path and the opportunities he was so grateful for.

2023 will see the first Javi Fernandez Scholarships awarded to two early-career researchers, and will allow them to undertake placements to help develop their knowledge and build networks.

Jessica Oliver (Medicine 2020-) is undertaking a 6-week placement in a laboratory in Monash University, Australia. This lab specialises in methods designed to understand how the immune system recognises cancer cells. This research aims to increase the likelihood of the development of vaccines that could help stop cancers progressing and might open up new avenues of investigation into cancer radiotherapy.

Dr Ceri Fielding (PhD 2002) will use his scholarship to visit two labs in Brazil to establish a collaboration investigating the interactions of an emerging RNA virus, Oropouche virus (OROV), with the immune system. This virus causes a dengue fever-like illness and is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. This research aims to improve our understanding of how RNA viruses interact with the immune system, and how this could impact future pandemics.

These scholarships will make inroads into research and help the next generation of scientists to give patients new hope for managing chronic illnesses, infectious diseases, and cancers.

Javi’s memory and passion for research lives on at Cardiff. His legacy will be carried onwards by the next generation of researchers, working to improve our knowledge of the immune system and infection.

His parents, friends and colleagues will never be able to replace him, but knowing that they can honour his memory in a fitting way, and continue to share his passion and enthusiasm for his work, is the best tribute to a remarkable person.

Collaborative working that drives research forward

Professor Simon Jones, Co-Director of the Systems Immunity Research Institute explains why collaborations are so important to an early career researcher.

“Collaborations between laboratories across the world are invaluable in driving research forward and training the next generation of researchers. By building those links, our researchers can develop their knowledge with different techniques and methods, which they can then bring back to Cardiff.

“These experiences give our early career researchers the opportunity to build global connections, supporting their career progression and helping them to promote and disseminate their work on an international level. It can help them develop independence in their work, and inspire them with new ideas and enthusiasm.

“By working together, we can combine the best minds, share knowledge and experience, and ultimately reach our research goals of delivering better treatments for patients, sooner.”

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