Julie Bristow, a PhD student at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, presented her findings to a range of politicians and a panel of expert judges as part of SET for Britain – a poster competition in the House of Commons involving almost 200 early career researchers.
Trachoma is the most common infectious cause of blindness in the world. It is known to affect more than 21 million people but it is estimated that an additional 180 million people worldwide live in areas where trachoma is highly prevalent and are at risk of going blind.
Ms Bristow has spent the last four years studying the spread of disease by flies for her PhD. The research presented at Parliament involves identifying which smells best attract the trachoma-spreading fly, Musca sorbens. This will help scientists to make more efficient fly traps and evaluate how covered toilets prevent them from breeding.
On presenting her science in Parliament, Ms Bristow said: “I’m privileged to be working the fascinating area of how odours can be used to manipulate insect behaviour and control disease-carrying insects. It is an area of work that isn’t well known to the public, so I really enjoyed sharing my fascination with others.
“I also believe that communicating science is an issue of equity. So much of the research carried out in the UK, including my own, is publically funded, so it is important that the people know about the results and that policy makers have the opportunity to see some of the vital outcomes of this research.”
The full findings from Ms Bristow’s research will be published later this year.
Dr James Logan, medical entomologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and lead scientist for the research group Julie works in, said: “Julie made some important and novel discoveries during her PhD and I am delighted that she has the opportunity to present her work in such a high profile setting. I am very proud of all her achievements.”
Andrew Miller MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, added: “This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country’s best young researchers. These early career scientists are the architects of our future and SET for Britain is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”