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SMiHA goes to the Mancunian Skin Club

SMiHA member Paul Norton has been at it again, this time he is filling us in on the Mancunian Skin Club held in Manchester, September 2022:

In typical British fashion, the train from Bradford to Manchester Victoria was delayed by 30 minutes. So, I donned my headphones and decided to catch up on the Mancunian music scene pioneered by none other than Anthony H Wilson. After a longer than anticipated journey, I finally arrived at the venue which was located a stone’s throw away from the train station. Fortunately, the sun had decided to smile upon Manchester that day, which set the mood for the entire conference.

The prestigious Chetham’s College based in Manchester city centre, hosted the sixth Mancunian skin club annual international workshop ‘The Skin Exposome’. This meeting saw the return of the ‘heavy hitters’ of dermatological pioneers including the esteemed Prof Julie Thornton (Bradford), a founding member of the Skin Microbiome in Healthy Ageing Society, Prof Rachael Watson (Manchester) and a man who needs no introduction, Prof Ralf Paus (Miami). The conference started with an opening keynote lecture hosted by Dr Niels Peek on ‘the exposome’ and an equally exciting presentation from Prof Rachael Watson based on ‘photoaging’, signifying the first round of talks.

During the first coffee break, Dr David Ansell – who had roots in Manchester but now lectures at Bradford University – helped me feel at ease by introducing me to some of his past colleagues. I met a PhD student named Joe who presented a poster based on extracting microbial proteins from absorbent wound dressings. As this area was very similar to my own, we got to know each other quite well. I then got talking to PostDoc Mikey who hailed from Manchester University but completed his undergraduate at Huddersfield with a placement year. This was an experience we had both shared, so it didn’t take long for us to start bonding over our time in the ‘trenches’. My interactions with all these people allowed for key socialising and introduced me to some interesting research.

Shortly after, the second round of talks commenced where Prof Richard Weller discussed his thoughts and research on ‘saying no to vitamin D’. This was an interesting talk which certainly made many in the audience re-evaluate lifestyle choices. Perhaps, the most important message made, was the lack of ethnic skin used in research. The presentations made sure to highlight this drawback and showcased roadmaps that could be incorporated into future study in order to provide a more inclusive research community.

Towards the end of the first day, I was invited out to a local bar by members of Prof Rachael Watsons group. After a lot of socialising and one too many pints, we moved to the northern quarter where we found a place selling one-pound tacos. Bargain! After a great first day, I retreated to the Mercure hotel which overlooked Piccadilly gardens, offering a great view to end a great night.

The second day of talks saw a particularly rousing keynote presentation by Prof Ralf Paus on ‘How the hair follicle deals with internal and external stressors’. Some very interesting points were made and the added humour was an entertaining plus. Towards the end, the fantastic organisers said their thanks and farewells as well as awarding generous poster prizes of up to £500.

An all-paid dinner reservation made at Mowgli was the perfect way to cap off this experience. I made great friends and connections with many people from the Manchester groups. After consuming my body weight in food and drink, I said my farewells and wished them luck as they headed off to the European Society of Dermatological Research conference hosted in Amsterdam later that week. The skin research community has fantastic contributors and is an area I can say as a budding scientist, that I am a contributing member of and can not wait to grow my network further.

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More about Paul

Hi, my name is Paul Norton, I am a Bradford native and resident originally from Keighley. I completed my undergraduate studies with a sandwich year at the University of Huddersfield with a 1st class BSc (Hons) degree in Medical Biology which helped me gain an incredible PhD opportunity at the University of Bradford.

I am a 4th year PhD student at the University of Bradford, Centre for Skin Sciences, under the supervision of Prof Julie Thornton, Dr Maria Katsikogianni and my external supervisor at the University of Newcastle, Dr Chien-Yi Chang. My project is titled ‘Surface engineering novel Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) polymers to remove pathogenic biofilms from human skin’. An interdisciplinary project which combines the areas of skin science, microbiology, and polymer chemistry. In a nutshell, we propose a novel mechanism to potentiate the removal of antimicrobial resistant bacteria and biofilm from chronic wounds via unique surface topographies/engineering of polymers to create an environment ideal for bacterial attachment. The PDMS will be one of many mechanisms incorporated into a smart wound dressing.

I was fortunate to attend the British society of investigative dermatology conference earlier in April this year as part of my PhD. I made a fantastic connection with Prof Muzliffa Haniffa and was recently successful in obtaining a research assistant/associate post at the University of Newcastle, due to start shortly. The basis of this research post will revolve around the human cell atlas.


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