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From Westminster to Whitechapel: Queen Mary takes part in Royal Society Pairing scheme

Professor Lord Winston – the distinguished medical scientist, television presenter and life peer – will be visiting Queen Mary University of London on January 17 2014 as part of a unique ‘pairing’ scheme run by the Royal Society, the UK national academy of science.

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As part of the scheme Lord Winston will spend the day with Professor Seif Shaheen, Clinical Professor of Respiratory Epidemiology at Queen Mary.  He will have the opportunity to hear more about Professor Shaheen’s research taking place at the Blizard Institute on the Whitechapel campus.  He will also spend time in the Centre of the Cell, an interactive science education centre at the forefront of Public Engagement, and the first in the world to be located within biomedical research laboratories.

Lord Winston is an alumnus of Queen Mary’s medical school, known then as The London, graduating in 1964. He is a world-renowned fertility expert and one of the pioneers of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). He has presented several award-winning BBC television series, including The Human Body, The Superhuman and A Child of our Time.

Professor Lord Winston comments: "The Royal Society pairing scheme is a good idea and I'm delighted to support it. I look forward to returning to my old medical school and learning more about the research that Professor Shaheen and his team are undertaking. It will also be a great opportunity to visit the Centre of the Cell once again”.

Professor Seif Shaheen has already spent a week in the Houses of Parliament as part of the pairing scheme’s ‘Week in Westminster’.  This provided him with a ‘behind the scenes’ insight into how science policy is formed as well as an understanding of the working life of a peer.

Professor Seif Shaheen, Clinical Professor of Respiratory Epidemiology at Queen Mary University of London, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, comments: The pairing scheme has been a wonderful experience which I strongly recommend to colleagues. My week in Westminster was fascinating – I learned such a lot – and it was a privilege to spend time shadowing Lord Winston in the House of Lords. I look forward to welcoming him back to his old campus.”

The Royal Society’s MP-Scientist pairing scheme aims to build bridges between parliamentarians and some of the best scientists in the UK. It is an opportunity for MPs to become better informed about science issues and for scientists to understand how they can influence science policy. Over 200 pairs of scientists and MPs have taken part in the scheme since it was launched in 2001.

Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, comments: "We live in a world facing increasing challenges that can only be addressed with a clear understanding of science.  From climate change to influenza outbreaks, GM food to nuclear power, our MPs have to make decisions about complex issues that will affect the lives of all those in the UK and, in many cases, more widely throughout the world.  This means that MPs and scientists have a responsibility to engage with each other to get the best possible scientific advice into public policy making.

“We set up the Royal Society’s MP Scientist pairing scheme in 2001 to provide the opportunity for MPs and scientists to build long-term relationships with each other and have now organised over two hundred pairings. 

“I know many parliamentarians and scientists who have gained from the scheme, and the shaping of public policy can only improve over time as these relationships continue to grow.”

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