CRM student highlights 2013

14 October 2013

The MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) currently has a vibrant PhD community of more than 60 students. As part of their training program, students are encouraged to get involved in activities that suit their personal interests and help build their CV.

CRM PhD students Harsh Vaidya, James O’Malley, Chris West and Antoniana Batsivari share their experiences.

Harsh Vaidya

Merck Serono Innovation Cup 2013

In August 2013, Harsh Vaidya, PhD student in Prof Clare Blackburn’s group, travelled to Germany to attend the Merck Serono Innovation Cup, a business competition where graduate students and Merck Serono employees work together to generate innovative, convincing business plans. With more than 700 applications this year, the odds of being selected were 1 in 24.


It was an amazing opportunity to network and learn from senior scientists and executives of an international pharmaceutical company. I learned a lot about the path to commercialization of research, which is becoming increasingly important in the field of regenerative medicine.

Harsh Vaidya
Induced pluripotent stem cells

Nature publication

In June 2013 Dr Keisuke Kaji’s lab published a paper on induced pluripotent stem cells in the scientific journal Nature. PhD student James O’Malley was first author on the paper, an exceptional achievement.

Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, like embryonic stem (ES) cells, hold great promise for therapeutic applications as they have the potential to differentiate into any cell type found in the body. However generating iPS cells is difficult and occurs at a low efficiency, therefore making it difficult to figure out exactly how this process works and how it can be improved.

We discovered that the route from a differentiated cell to an iPS cell is not straightforward, and it appears to involve an unexpected detour towards an intermediate state. I hope our discovery will help researchers find ways to improve the efficiency of producing iPS cells and aid the development of this technology towards clinical use.

James O'Malley

See press release and background story

3 minute thesis competition

Chris West recently entered an international public engagement competition that required students to present their thesis to a lay audience in only 3 minutes, using only 1 powerpoint slide. He won the University of Edinburgh final with his talk ‘Blood, sweat and ears’.

Chris, a clinical PhD student in Prof Bruno Peault’s group, represented the University at the final on the 29th October 2013 and came in 3rd place.

“The experience has been a lot of fun, but also a lot tougher than I expected. Condensing 3 years work in to 3 minutes is a lot more difficult than I thought!” - Chris West.

More information about the competition.

Chris had more good news to celebrate this year: he also successfully applied for a £60,000 one year Surgical Research Fellowship from the Royal College of Surgeons of England to cover salary and research costs.

Antoniana Batsivari

‘Getting in Shape’ Summer School

Antoniana Batsivari, PhD student in Prof Alexander Medvinsky’s group, travelled to the Santander International Summer School in Santiago, Chile in November 2013. This year’s summer school, organized by Heidelberg University, focuses on developmental biology, and more specifically on the visualization and manipulation of organismal morphogenesis.

Antoniana was delighted when she found out her scholarship application was successful:

“I am really looking forward to it. It will be a great opportunity to meet PhD students from other Universities, share ideas and problems as well as meet and get help from experts in the imaging field. It will really help shape my research project.”