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The William Harvey Research Institute - Barts and The London

Research in Focus

Jack Williams, Postdoctoral Researcher (Endocrinology)

Jack WilliamsJanuary 2018

Can you introduce yourself please?

My name is Jack, I’m in the second year of my first post-doc in Professor Lou Metherell’s lab studying genetic drift in mouse models. I studied for my PhD at The University of Manchester under Professors Qing-Jun Meng and Charles Streuli, where I worked on circadian rhythms in the breast.

My primary interests are in signalling networks, identifying novel regulators of both healthy and disease physiology.

What are your main research interests?

My primary interests are in signalling networks, identifying novel regulators of both healthy and disease physiology. I am also something of a staunch advocate for understanding and refining model systems, both in vitro and in vivo, trying to improve our approximations to human biology.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m studying a series of very common mouse strains, many of which are poorly understood and different substrains are often used synonymously. My research has identified striking differences in these strains, in the heart, body fat, behaviour and many more. We are now deciphering the genetic variants that cause these differences.

What inspires you to carry out your research?

Many researchers believe they are using the same mouse models as other labs across the world, and yet produce very different results when doing the same tests. These discrepancies are typically attributed to experimenter errors or other non-defined variables, and the experiment is shelved. It is vital that we understand the fundamental physiology of our models and report it fully, as this will help demystify such problems and could streamline our research into heart disease, obesity, diabetes and stroke.

What are some of the biggest challenges to carrying out your research?

Time! Many of the disease states in my models are progressive, and so we have to design cohorts to age up to 18 months old. This requires a lot of planning, but it can be particularly tricky as you can discover a lot in 18 months, and you might want to do a whole new set of tests!

What advice would you give to a researcher starting out in your field?

Quite dull advice on the face of it, but I’d say read, and not just papers on your gene or pathway or disease. Read from fields you may not study, as you may find techniques that nobody is using in your field and this fresh approach to a problem can be equal parts exciting and fruitful. One of our best experiments came about this way, and it solved a problem we had spent months going at, and I only wish I had done it sooner.