Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research

Postgraduate Training: A Fantastic Opportunity to Learn with Peers | Samanta Gudziunaite

Samanta Gudziunaite, a final year PhD student at Swansea University and the Centre writes about joining fellow postgraduate trainees in Edinburgh

Samanta Gudziunaite
Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research PhD student, Samanta Gudziunaite

I had the fantastic opportunity to participate in a two-day postgraduate research networking event hosted by the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research in Edinburgh, Scotland in November 2023.

Day 1: Air pollution and its health impacts

The central theme for this event was the recurrent and pivotal topic of air pollution. We know that symptoms of wheezing, breathlessness, tightness in the chest, and cough are often reported more frequently when air pollution levels are high. We also know that air pollution has a three- and four-day lag effect on individual lung function, meaning lung function worsens a few days after initial exposure to high pollution levels. We don't know how individuals are exposed to air pollution and how this might affect them personally.

Dr Deepa Varghese, Dr Hajar Hajmohammadi, Dr Tom Clemens, and I all presented our latest work on the impacts of air pollution on lung function. From long-term exposure and the risk of SARS-COVID-19 to a more clinical perspective with severe asthma hospitalisation examples, we covered a lot of content in just a few hours. A personal favourite of mine would have been the upcoming work from Dr Wako Golicha due to the novelty of using personal air pollution monitors; the data collected from personal air pollution monitors might benefit individuals who have respiratory diseases, like asthma, by offering a detailed insight into where they are spending their time (when paired with GPS) and what pollutant sources might be triggering different symptoms.

Four images from Edinburgh with 2 including air pollution monitors
Images from Sam's trip to Edinburgh where she used a air pollution monitor in various locations

A key message would be that personal air pollution monitors are growing in popularity, and (hopefully) soon, they will become a part of routine practice. In monitoring patients' exposure to air pollution, correlating this with their respiratory symptoms and lung function, and establishing the best methods to improve their care by adjusting asthma review plans, we hope to have a positive impact with such work. It's great to see the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research taking such strides towards research and population-level impact.

Day 2: Having impact with research studies

On the second day, we listened to more lectures on putting theory into practice and the importance (and challenges) of making a long-term impact. Professor Hillary Pinnock led this talk. Colleagues and fellow PhD students Andreas, Jasmin, and Arif all presented their work and the impact that it is having on a population level.

A collaborative network I am proud to be part of

Being a part of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research and witnessing the tremendous work undertaken is incredible. The strides towards a future without asthma and the direction the research is taking are inspiring. Furthermore, the dedicated commitment to making advancements in respiratory medicine through innovative approaches is commendable.

A special thank you goes out to Professor Hillary Pinnock, Professor Gwyn Davies, Ms Paula Mika, Mrs Claire Jankowska, and Mrs Amanda Davies for organising this event and keeping the postgraduate team connected.

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