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PhD student Alison McGarvey wins Wilmut Prize

5 October 2015

The MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) acknowledges the hard work of our PhD students and the contributions these students make towards the CRM and to the scientific community.

Using funds that were donated to mark Professor Sir Ian Wilmut’s retirement, the CRM has established a tradition of awarding ‘The Wilmut Prize” to the best final year PhD student.

All final year students were assessed on the quality and quantity of the scientific data that they generated in their PhD project as well as their presentation and question handling skills. The top 3 students were invited to present at the CRM annual retreat where the best student was selected.

The 2015 winner of the £800 Wilmut Prize was Alison McGarvey, who is co-supervised by Simon Tomlinson and Alexander Medvinsky.

Commenting on reception of the prize Alison said: 

"It’s really an honour to have been awarded the Wilmut Prize and to have had the chance to present my work at the SCRM retreat. I especially have to thank the many people at SCRM who have helped me with my project and who make it such a great place to do a PhD. I would like to put the money towards the attendance of an international conference so that I can use this opportunity to hear about the latest research of world experts in my field."

Alison’s project is a computationally lead investigation of the earliest emergence of the stem cells which can produce the entire blood system. The time and place these blood stem cells first appear are known but a full understanding of the critical environmental cues that regulate their formation is still lacking. For her PhD Alison made a dataset which measures all of the genes present in the environment of emerging blood stem cells. By computational modelling she identified candidates from this data which are found in this region, and through lab experiments showed one of these candidates improved the efficiency of blood stem cell formation in culture. Alison hopes to follow up the mechanism of action of this candidate as well as provide the computational model as a resource that could be used by researchers in the field.

Wilmut Prize runners up Luca Tosti and Harry Bulstrode each received a cheque for £100.

Other student prizewinners at the retreat were James Ashmore (1st year PhD prize); Sara Tamagno and Theano Panagopoulou (joint winners 2nd year Phd prize); and Frank Lui and Ally Rooney (joint winners 3-minute Thesis).

Staff were also recognised at the prize giving with Ron Wilkie, who has been supporting our researchers for many years with advice and technical support in the histology service and Fiona Oswald, who has led the Admin Team for a number of years in an extremely professional, friendly and helpful manner both receiving Outstanding Contribution Awards.