I joined the staff at Queen’s University Belfast as a Lecturer in Nutrition and Cancer Epidemiology in 2006 having spent the previous 5 years as a Cancer Prevention Fellow at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health in Washington DC. I had previously completed a PhD in Nutrition at Trinity College Dublin and a Masters in Public Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland. At Queen’s I have had the opportunity to develop and build a nutrition and cancer work stream to investigate the role of nutrition, diet and lifestyle in terms of both cancer risk and also cancer prognosis. I have been privileged to have the opportunity to work with enthusiastic and collaborative researchers within the Centre for Public Health and beyond including world-leading experts in cancer epidemiology, pharmacy, nutrition, statistics and clinical oncology. I am a visiting researcher at the University of Malaya where I have helped to establish a breast cancer survivor’s cohort which will contribute substantially to our understanding of the determinants of breast cancer progression in a multi-ethnic population and builds on my previous expertise in nutrition and breast cancer progression within the UK Breast cancer cohort, the DietCompLyf study. The DietCompLyf study has now been included in a worldwide breast cancer survivors pooling project which includes 5 other breast cancer cohorts including the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survivors cohort from Vanderbilt University and the Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard University. The Centre for Public Health is an ideal place to carry out my research as I am surrounded by highly motivated staff working to identify environmental and genetic risk factors for chronic disease and to reduce the burden of chronic disease through interventions and the development of screening programs. The availability of our own MRC methodology research hub and the world class Clinical Research Facility within the Centre for Public Health provides the ideal support necessary to conduct world-leading research.
I moved to Queen’s as a Wellcome Trust funded Post-Doctoral Researcher in January 1998. This position acted as a springboard for my appointment to a lectureship position in 2001 and later my promotion to Senior Lecturer in Vision Science in 2008.
Originally, as a young scientist coming from England, it was the reputation of Queen’s for medical research and the ambition and enthusiasm of the academic staff that made me realise that Belfast was the right place for me. My progression from post-doc to lecturer to senior lecturer is testament to the highly supportive and nurturing academic environment at Queen’s. Indeed, the exceptional mentoring, support and encouragement that I have received have been instrumental in my development as an independent scientist and researcher.
My main research interests are focused on the physiology, pathophysiology and pathology of the retinal microcirculation. Over recent years, the commitment of Queen’s in supporting the continued development of vision and vascular research has been genuinely impressive. Starting with just a small handful of academic staff, the Centre for Vision and Vascular Science has rapidly emerged as one of the leading ophthalmic research centres in the UK. With a new, purpose-designed, building on the horizon, it is an exciting time to be working within the vision and vascular sciences field at Queen’s.
Professor Mike Clarke's academic journey took him from Leeds where he grew up, to Oxford where he went to university and began working in health research, and to Dublin where he moved with his family in 2007.
His career has also followed a varied path. He went to Oxford to study chemistry but realised that, although research was his passion, bench-based research was not for him. After completing the chemistry element, he spent the fourth year of the course studying the history of drug abuse which led to a DPhil in the history of suicide by poisoning.
He joined the Clinical Trial Service Unit (CTSU) in Oxford in 1989, where he worked on the collaborative overview of randomised trials for the treatment of women with breast cancer. Then, in the early 1990s, as The Cochrane Collaboration was being established, he oversaw key aspects of the development of the methods and the software for Cochrane reviews, now widely used across systematic reviews outside the Collaboration as well. He was Chair of the International Steering Group from 2002 to 2004. In 2002, he took over as Director of the UK Cochrane Centre with a particular focus on improving the quality and relevance of Cochrane reviews.
Professor Clarke’s work will develop better ways to engage with practitioners, patients, policy makers and the public in the choice of research questions, the implementation of that research and the use of its findings. His work on accessibility includes Evidence Aid, seeking to make it easier for people and organisations planning for and responding to natural disasters to use systematic reviews in their decision making (www.EvidenceAid.org). As well as improving outcomes for people and communities affected by disasters and other humanitarian emergencies, Evidence Aid provides an opportunity to develop better ways to conduct and disseminate research.
Asked what drives him, Mike replied that it is turning the uncertainties faced by people making decisions about healthcare into questions that can be answered through good and effective research.
He said: “My work with the Clinical Trial Service Unit (CTSU) in Oxford and links with the Cochrane Collaboration gave me a unique insight into many of the challenges of conducting and reporting research.
“My move to Queen’s will build on that experience in an environment where I can use research to improve research, and to contribute to a dynamic team making an impact far beyond the University and Northern Ireland.”
I joined the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s in 2012. I earned a MD degree from the University of Buenos Aires, followed by training in microbial genetics and pathogenesis in the USA. I established my own research group, at the University of Western Ontario and was awarded a Canada Research Chair. My laboratory investigates how the lipopolysaccharide molecule assembles on the bacterial cell surface and protects bacteria from host defences and antibiotic entry. We also characterise the pathogenesis and mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance of opportunistic bacteria that cause respiratory infections in patients with cystic fibrosis.
Joining the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s offers me a unique opportunity to move fundamental research to clinical applications through translational research, especially in the area of respiratory infections, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Blending infectious diseases and immunology research into one integrated Centre provides greater opportunities for interdisciplinary research, and allows me to work with enthusiastic and highly motivated colleagues, and with full access to the clinical research facilities I need to move my research towards a translational path.