The South Wales Immunology Group is a Regional Group of the British Society for Immunology. It was established in 1997 to provide a forum for scientists to promote active discussions, enhance collaborations and foster common immunological interests in the south of Wales and further afield. Here, members of the group tell us more about their activities, including public engagement events, and how they have adapted to a new virtual reality of scientific gatherings.
Successful online seminars
The BSI’s South Wales Group connects postgraduate students, postdoctoral researchers, academic staff and clinicians from different institutes in the region. As one of the most vibrant research networks in Wales, we invite eminent local, national and international scientists to give inspiring seminars to our researchers and students, which promote discussions and have led to novel ideas and collaborations.
As the COVID-19 pandemic expanded globally, we transformed our face-to-face seminars into an online seminar series. We have had very good attendance rates and active discussion sessions during the virtual seminars, some of which have been recorded for members with childcare responsibilities. During lockdown, a journal club to review the literature around SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 was convened by Awen Gallimore and compiled by Oliver Scourfield. A group of academic staff, postdoctoral researchers and PhD students select and review papers to produce a weekly digest, being read by scientists and clinicians in Cardiff and further afield.
Jonathan Boulter Memorial Lecture
The Jonathan Boulter Memorial Lecture is an annual public lecture arranged by Andy Sewell and the group in memory of their friend and colleague, Jonathan Boulter. Jonathan was a promising young immunologist with a particular interest in the bioengineering of high affinity T cell receptors, who tragically lost his brave fight with brain cancer in 2008. The lecture is delivered by outstanding, world-leading scientists to both South Wales BSI members and A-level students from local schools.
In the past three years, the lectures have been delivered by Nancy Ruddle (Yale School of Medicine), known for her discovery of lymphotoxin; Bent Jakobsen (CSO and co-founder of Immunocore, who Jonathan worked with), expert in T-cell receptor function; and Gwendalyn J Randolph (Washington University, pictured), who is known for her seminal work on dendritic cell migration and assessing lymphatic vasculature as a regulator of inflammation.
Focusing on careers
Our early career representatives are keen to provide support regarding career prospects of fellow researchers. In 2018, Wiola Zelek and Ariadni Kouzeli organised a careers workshop, inviting speakers from different sectors to share their career progress following completion of their PhD. Following the BSI Careers Report in Immunology 2017, it was deemed vital to continue the conversation regarding careers in immunology inside and outside academia, and the challenges facing researchers. Our medical student representatives, Timothy Woo and Khalid Osman, organised a careers evening at the medical school. During the event, Paul Morgan and Tariq El-Shanawany shared their successful career journeys on clinical investigation and immunology research, which received extremely positive feedback from medical students.
The BSI South Wales Group also funds several public outreach events to highlight the importance of immunology research in day-today life. We have funded the ‘Our Body’ theme of the Pint of Science festival in Cardiff for two consecutive years attracting audiences of 100 over the three days. During intermissions between talks, our regional group provides information on the importance of herd immunity through vaccination, childhood vaccination and the principles of immunology.
We have taken this information to multiple events aimed at different audiences, such as ‘Techniquest: After Hours’, an event centred around providing science education to adults through fun activities. Superbugs, organised by Matthias Eberl and Jonathan Tyrell, also became a two-week pop-up science event in the heart of Wales’ busiest shopping centre, hosting 6,566 visitors. Schools outreach Members of the Group are also involved in engagement activities with schools. These range from visits to schools in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan area to talk about the immune response to infections to the Science in Health Live open day at Cardiff University; and also the Life Sciences Challenge quiz, where schools in Wales compete against each other, organised by James Matthews.
Adriadni Kouzeli, Owen Moon, Ceri Fielding and You Zhou
Division of Infection and Immunity and Systems Immunity University Research Institute, Cardiff University
Find out more
To join the Group and take part in upcoming activities, please visit www.immunology.org/south-wales-immunology-group.