Blog post

Celebrating women in research: part three

In the final installment of our women in research blog series, we take a look at the research being done under the strands of geoscience, molecular cell biology, the arts and health and identity and culture. 

By Gender Equality Network (GEN) - 24 March 2022

Sian Davies Vollum

I am a geoscientist who studies environmental and climate change. My experience includes leading research teams and projects, working in collaborative multi-disciplinary teams and field-based research in Europe, Africa and North America. I am interested in how physical processes are affected by climate and environmental changes. I have worked on how this is recorded in the geological record and more recently how current climate change is affecting coastal processes and environments.

This has taken me to West Africa and I have been working there with researchers focusing on coastal lagoon environments that are particularly susceptible to climate change. In 2021, I was awarded a Global Challenges Research Fund grant that enabled me to set up the Resilient Lagoon Network, with colleagues in Ghana, Nigeria and Benin. We recently launched our website and policy brief to raise awareness of and provide information about lagoons. Lagoon environments are the location of some largest coastal cities in the world and are common across the Global South thus my goal is to extend the reach of the network beyond West Africa into Asia and Central and South America.

Find out more about Sian Davies Vollum

Opeyemi Stella Ademowo

I am a lecturer in molecular cell biology at the University of Derby. My research focuses on biomarker discovery and development in age-related diseases to understand disease mechanisms, prognosis and to identify new treatment targets. My previous work includes the use of mass spectrometry, an analytical technique to develop protein biomarkers to predict response to therapy in inflammatory arthritis. Mass spectrometry is useful for the identification and quantification of compounds of interest in diseases and disease models based on their mass to charge ratios.

I developed mass spectrometry methods for the analysis of oxidised lipids in Alzheimer’s disease and chronic kidney disease and investigated the effects of antioxidants on Alzheimer’s disease. I have also investigated the effects of oxidative stress on mitochondrial function/dysfunction in neuronal cells and the role of antioxidants in mitigating the effects.

My current research is investigating novel drug targets to prevent cell damage and tissue dysfunction caused by oxidative stress and cellular senescence as measured by the oxidation lipids and inflammatory factors respectively. Working with colleagues in Human Sciences at the University of Derby I hope to contribute to the prevention, delayed onset, and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, hence promoting healthy ageing.

Find out more about Opeyemi Stella Ademowo

Professor Susan Hogan holding a photography book.
Stella Ademowo forming the break the bias pose with arms posed in a cross shape.

Susan Hogan

I'm interested in the arts and health. With our main focus on the mothers, we will provide a supportive arts-based group for new mothers in which they will be invited to explore and express their feelings about being a new mum using art in the form of images via drawing, painting, sculptural work and photography, as it is understood that images can capture feelings that are initially hard to express or acknowledge. We think this will be of benefit to new mothers in terms of their overall feelings of wellbeing and self-confidence as well as resulting in measurable gains for their baby’s development.

This is a larger-scale study building on previous pilot work. It will include a cost-benefit analysis and economic modelling, as well as a randomised-control trial. Partners for this latest piece of work include the London School of Economics and Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. We are also in consultation with the World Health Organisation (WHO) over this piece of work.

I have also just started work on an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project about social prescribing. Arts on Prescription is an important idea. People visit their GPs because of stress, loneliness or anxiety that can have a profound effect on wellbeing, but these are problems not always best fixed by doctors and medicine. Social prescribing helps people to improve their health and wellbeing by connecting them to community services and social support via prescribing link workers.

The research team will identify key elements of a pilot training. Combined with the focus group discussions data from both mentees and mentors, the research team will refine the framework and produce a draft-training handbook, which will be used to scale-up the intervention. This is a pilot towards a larger study. This is collaborative research with the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP), SP networks and the voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise sector.

Last but not least, Birth Shock! is an AHRC funded project. This project seeks to wrap supportive resources around a suite of films, promote them to new non-academic audiences via film festivals and established pre-natal networks, share them with a range of training health-professionals, and evaluate and report on the impact of this activity, with respect to changed attitudes to practice and better understandings of the role of the arts in health, to policy and practice audiences.

The Birth Project focused on mothers and empowered them to articulate their own experiences. We managed to capture these voices, through filming workshops, to make a lasting statement about the reality of birth, using the power of the art and personal testimony of those filmed. We intend to use these films as an educational resource and make them part of the formal training that health and medical professionals undergo, so they become integrated into curricula. Finally, I've just published a monograph as part of an arts and health series on photography. It's fair to say, I am having a busy and rewarding year.

Find out more about Susan Hogan

Maria Photiou

As a researcher, I am interested in exploring how contemporary women’s art practices engage with the concepts of ‘home’, ‘migration’, and the sense of ‘belonging’.

I explore how women artists use autobiographical narratives to reflect how they experience home and explore the multiple perspectives of ‘homemaking’ in relation to gendered politics, identity, migration, exile, and the sense of belonging. Women artists’ reconceptions of place can offer new understandings of seeing and experiencing divided cities. I explored these issues in my book Art, Borders and Belonging: On Home and Migration

I strongly believe that arts can inspire positive social change and contribute to social justice and equality. This is reflected in my research publications and collaborations with women artists and fellow researchers. 

I have also recently been organising the one-day virtual symposium Creative Homemaking: Visualising Home in Times of Crisis, which has been awarded a fund from the University of Derby. The Symposium aimed to bring together artists, researchers, curators, and the wider audience to discuss new perspectives and experiences in visualising home in times of crisis.

Find out more about Maria Photiou

About the author

Silhouette of a woman comprised of other animated women against a purple background.

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