Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 55

Submission from Dr Victoria Wykes


  There are a large number of UK life science professionals who are interested and who have worked in space-related projects at NASA and ESA as undergraduates.

  However there are very limited postgraduate opportunities available in the UK.

  People will leave the UK to pursue their aspirations.

  This is a major loss to the UK in terms of academia, research and also commercially.

  The committee must endorse space-related research and get the UK involved with this exciting era of space exploration.


  I have always been fascinated by science and technology. At University College London I completed a BSc (Hons) in pharmacology, and a combined medical degree and PhD in neural signaling. I am currently working for the NHS as an academic neurology senior house officer at the Royal Free Hospital in north London and working as a post doctorial researcher at the Institute of Neurology ( My career path is to continue working as a neurologist and pursue my research interests related to neurological dysfunction.

  Whilst at medical school I was fortunate to be one of the few students to be selected on academic achievement to attend the 2004 NASA Kennedy Space Center space medicine elective. This was a fantastic experience to learn more about the physiological changes experienced in microgravity, many of these are accelerations of medical conditions that occur terrestrially eg osteoporosis and cause much distress and disability.

  During my elective I collaborated on a project that had been commenced by a previous UK student on a project to create a system that can filter drinking water to produce sterile medical grade water for injection in a microgravity environment. This system is initially being designed for use in microgravity but has many terrestrial uses such as in remote environments for humanitarian aid. Addressing both the technical issues and life science problems associated with microgravity gives us a new tool for tackling and resolving many terrestrial problems.

  Since 2004 I have returned to Kennedy Space Center numerous times and given scientific presentations of the work at the annual meetings of the American Space Medicine Association ( in both 2005 and 2006. I am a founder member of the UK Space Biomedicine Association and have been active in organizing the conference and have presented scientific presentations. During my last job I spent all of my personal annual leave (bar five days) on space-related research and self funded my attendance at space conferences in both the UK and the US. I am highly motivated to continue space-related research and would be prepared to travel for these opportunities.


  I am not alone in the position of people that I have worked at ESA or NASA facilities and are very keen to pursue research in this area. However, research in this area is very limited in the UK as we are not an active member of ESA and do not currently have funding bodies for space related life sciences. Many of us are highly motivated to pursue life sciences research with an aspect related to micro-gravity. Having been trained in the UK during 11 years of university education, I would be disappointed to leave the UK in order to pursue a space-related life science research career. However, I am prepared to do this.


  I think that this is a very important time for the UK. NASA is gearing up to return to the moon, Mars and beyond. There are numerous ESA funded life science research opportunities available eg the Toulouse bed rest study that would be very interesting to collaborate on. These opportunities are only available for undergraduates. However, there are no funded opportunities for post graduates. This is a real disappointment for highly motivated individuals who will ultimately travel abroad to be part of this exciting cutting edge science and technology. It will be a tragedy if the UK does not engage in supporting space-related research. Many of the initial science and questions are posed by academics in the UK and then further research is conducted elsewhere. It is a real shame that many young vibrant multi-disciplinary trained specialists will leave the UK to pursue their aspirations. I firmly believe that the Science and Technology Committee on UK space policy must endorse space-related research.

October 2006

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