The BLF helped me present my research
John Lowe says support helps scientists to research lung disease.
I've been working in clinical research since graduating from Lancaster University in 2003, and I've focused on the lungs since 2005 - first in adults, and now in children.
This summer, the British Lung Foundation helped me to attend the European Respiratory Society's annual conference by offering me one of their research travel grants. The conference allows people working in lung research and healthcare to come together and discuss each other's work.
Why it's important
It was the first time I'd presented my PhD work to the wider research community and the chance to talk to other experts in the field about my work was so valuable. I learned a lot from the people I met and that will really help to improve my work.
The conference also gave me the chance to see what other researchers are working on and to connect with people who have the same research interests as me. Although the conference is huge with loads of different things going on, there's still a real sense of community. I felt part of something worthwhile and important.
Finally, it was a great opportunity to meet with some of the people I've worked with and to catch up with some familiar faces. It's encouraging to see that old colleagues are still passionately involved lung health research.
During the conference, I presented my PhD work about the affects of premature birth on the lungs. We know that babies born prematurely have reduced lung function (especially those born extremely early), and that children with reduced lung function will become adults with reduced lung function. This means they are more likely to develop lung conditions earlier.
The first part of my research looked at whether these children engage in less physical activity. Being active is obviously a huge part of a healthy lifestyle, especially in childhood when enjoying exercise can help set you up for life.
We've shown that, at least in day-to-day activity, children born prematurely appear to be as active as those who were not premature. However, all children were some way off meeting the national guidelines of being moderate-to-vigorously active for 60 minutes a day. Encouraging them to be more physically active as children may help to reduce the risk of getting lung disease as an adult.
The next step is to look even further back by learning more about how the lungs develop in the womb, and the reasons premature children develop lung problems. The lungs grow in important stages in the womb and obviously this process is interrupted by premature birth.
It's all very exciting and important work, and I'm really proud to be a part of it.
Working together to improve lung health
All in all, attending the conference was vital to my current and future research goals. The more often the research community comes together to discuss each other's work, the more effectively we can work together to improve lung health.
Without the British Lung Foundation's support, I wouldn't have been able to make it at all. The people I worked with at the BLF were extremely helpful, friendly and knowledgeable. I think the support they offer really does encourage young scientists to stay working in lung research.