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Answers to the complex questions; why I fell in love with science by Lucy Lawrence - Research Officer

01 August 2018

My family has always encouraged, often difficult but open scientific discussion about our viewpoints.

“Lucy, have you heard about stem cells?” “What do you think of animal testing?” “Lucy, have you seen they can do this in the lab?”

Science has always been a point of fascination for me. And for that, I thank my grandfather. Sharing the scientific discoveries and curious facts in a way that I, as an eager 11-year old, could understand.

Lucy Lawrence learning from her grandfather
Lucy Lawrence learning from her grandfather

As I grew up, my fascination grew deeper. I started to be the one asking the questions, if my grandfather had heard of the genome project or monoclonal antibodies? Had he seen that scientists have been able to help a quadriplegic move his fingers with a help of a chip in his brain?

Joining Kidney Research UK in 2017 took my fascination and interest to a whole new level. As a newly-appointed Research Officer, I had access to a whole database of research, which was happening right now.

I found myself asking my grandfather if he had heard about normothermic perfusion; did he know that our scientists can create anatomically correct kidneys out of the body? Did he realise that Kidney Research UK was on the verge of a transplant revolution?

As a Biomedical Scientist by background, I know that scientists are ‘in it for the long run’. We want to find the new drug, the new therapy, the new breakthrough that will help save lives, but that discovery, that breakthrough might be 20-30 years away. How would I explain to my grandfather that work that’s being done in Kidney Research UK laboratories right now, might not even be published by the time he is 100 – which is a fair way off believe me!

This is a topic that charities often struggle to communicate successfully with supporters, and it can be incredibly frustrating as a patient, supporter, carer or loved one that they don’t see immediate developments.

Often the journey as a researcher isn’t a straight forward one; there are ups and downs and your experiments don’t go to plan. But as with other aspects of life – as one door closes, so another one opens!

It’s the road to the end goal which makes science exciting. That is exactly how I explain it to my grandfather. The 20-year journey may, five years in, result in an unexpected breakthrough which in turn produces a life-changing medicinal discovery. And it may be nothing more than just a happy coincidence.

As a research charity, we are committed to funding lifesaving research. That is what initially drew me to this job; all of the incredible ground-breaking research, enabled by funding from us, which is now truly impacting lives.

My grandfather did not realise that Kidney Research UK is entirely funded by public donations. And I, as Research Officer, was able to tell him that Kidney Research UK has delivered new treatments to polycystic kidney disease patients slowing the formation of scar tissue. I was able to explain how Kidney Research UK’s scientists have changed the way kidneys are transplanted. I was also able to let him know that through Kidney Research UK’s merger with Kids Kidney Research, we are opening the doors to more paediatric research.

In hearing this, my grandparents, despite being unrelated to the cause, now donate regularly and I often see Kidney Research UK bags for the charity shops outside their front door.

I believe that there is nothing more inspiring than seeing the enormous impact the charity has had. And I feel very privileged to play a small part in that, to be part of #TEAMKIDNEY, as we call ourselves.

In my job I get to speak directly to our researchers, I get to communicate about what incredible work they are doing, what this means for patients and where they will go next. I recently helped run a Pint of Science event in Manchester. This meant bringing some of our researchers to a local pub, so they could chat about their kidney journey and the work they are doing to the pub crowd – and all over a pint!

Whether you are reading this as a researcher looking for funding, or a patient, supporter or carer, I want to ensure that you too are part of our kidney journey. That you can know all about the amazing science and research that is taking place and, more importantly, that you can understand it in the way that my grandfather explained complicated science to a curious 11-year old. It’s the explanation that has fired up a lifetimes’ passion; it’s why I love science.

And why I want to be part of a team that inspires you to feel the same, and to know that we, as a charity, are constantly pushing for new advances, new hope and, ultimately, a cure for kidney disease.

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