I’m Matt, an NHS trained Clinical Scientist in MRI Physics who decided to step into research to take up a PhD. I now work at the Newcastle Magnetic Resonance Centre developing a new functional imaging technique to investigate motor unit activity in muscle (Motor Unit MRI – MUMRI). We aim to apply this technique in ageing muscle to investigate what happens to the human motor units as we age. In the future, this will allow us to provide specific treatments on a patient-by-patient basis, increasing the quality of life of patients with sarcopenia.
Developing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) techniques to study functional muscle activity in ageing.
October 2019 – 10th Annual Alliance for Healthy Ageing Conference, Hexham: poster presentation, Non-Invasive Imaging of Human Motor Units.
2019 – MYO-MRI Imaging in Neuromuscular Disease, Berlin: poster presentation, Motor Unit Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MU-MRI) to Determine the Morphology and Distribution of Human Motor Units.
September 2019 – British Chapter: International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine: oral presentation, Non-Invasive Imaging of Human Motor Units.
2020 – Annual Meeting of the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, Sydney: oral presentation (online), Non-invasive Imaging of Single Human Motor Units.
June 2020, Non-invasive imaging of single human motor units, Clinical Neurophysiology, Vol 131, Issue 6, pages 1399 – 1406. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clinph.2020.02.004
Since completing my undergraduate in Physics I have been interested in applying physics to real world situations for benefit of individuals and society. I saw working on a novel MRI technique investigating motor unit activity as a way to pursue this. The technique has direct clinical translatability, especially into ageing syndromes where little is known about how the motor units evolve with age. This fascinates me and it is also good to know that you are at the forefront of developing new techniques to help those who suffer from long term age related conditions.
I started by studying for an undergraduate in Physics at Durham University. I was actually set on pursuing a career in Astrophysics. However, I changed my mind when studying about Magnetic Resonance Imaging. As I came to the end of my degree I found out about the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP). This allowed you to undertake a 3 year part time MSc. whilst becoming a state registered Clinical Scientist. I applied and didn’t get on, it is important to learn that rejection is sometimes good, I wasn’t ready at this stage. So, I decided to take a year and worked at the Ambulance service answering 999 emergency calls. The job was stressful at times, but also immensely rewarding. It also taught me lots about how to deal with stress, pressurized situations and further cemented that I wanted to work in Medical Physics, straddling the boundary of physics and medicine. I applied again to the STP and was successful in gaining a place in Newcastle. I chose to specialise in MRI imaging and completed my MSc. at the Newcastle Magnetic Resonance centre in Diffusion Weighted Imaging (DWI) of the Parotid glands under stimulation, with applications in Radiotherapy planning. I then applied for the Newcastle BRC PhD Clinical Fellowship, and after a lot of hard work was successful at getting funding for my current PhD project.
Sarcopenia effects on average around 15 % of individuals over the age of 65, with this being significantly higher (> 30 %) in over 80’s and hospitalised patients. The ageing population means that conditions which emerge later in life are associated with significant personal and public health costs. It is estimated that 40 % of the NHS budget is spent on healthcare for over 65’s. It is therefore highly pertinent that our ability to both diagnose and monitor conditions such as sarcopenia is strengthened. My research aims to provide an entirely novel, pain free, non-invasive method of monitoring motor unit activity and then potential treatment in patients suffering from sarcopenia. This will pave the way for individually tailored treatments to patients, reducing and preventing the co-morbidities of sarcopenia such as falls and loss of mobility, reducing both cost and pressure felt by NHS services dealing with patients suffering from sarcopenia.
I really enjoy feeling part of a community. There are so many training opportunities available within the NIHR, such as workshops and future career advice.
Yes I span two themes: ageing and neuromuscular. I feel that I gain knowledge from and interact with both themes. It also brings together expertise, I interact with people who are experts in ageing studies and those in neuromuscular, I can give my MRI expertise. I think this collaboration is really useful.
Submitting my first paper!
I think for conference speaking, practice is key. I did my first big conference this September and was nervous but practiced to a wide range of people beforehand. This allowed me to stay calm in front of the audience and the presentation went really well. Writing publications is something I am just going through now. I would start with outlining exactly what the message of your paper is and stick with it all the way through.
I’m from Northumberland originally so I am going to be a little biased, but there are so many great things about Newcastle. I think my favourite would have to be the fact whenever my friends from elsewhere come to visit they are so surprised at how beautiful it is. The city is a gem, great architecture, nightlife and its small enough you can walk everywhere! I’m a country boy at heart though so I would have to say the rolling hills and peacefulness of Northumberland is where I am at my most happy.