Two Swansea University researchers in sport and exercise sciences have won travel scholarships from the Worshipful Livery Company of Wales, which will allow them to further their research.
Freja Petrie researches ways of reducing concussion in women’s rugby and Rachael Kemp is investigating the effects of exercise on cancer cell growth and migration.
Both will now be able to advance their work, thanks to a total of £1000 of funding awarded by the Livery Company following a competition open to Swansea University researchers who are in the early stages of their career.
Applications came from across the University but both winners this year are from Sport and Exercise Sciences. One of the top-rated departments in the subject in the UK, it has close links with organisations such as Diabetes UK, the NHS, Sport Wales and the Welsh Rugby Union.
Freja Petrie’s PhD research focuses on head impact mechanisms in women’s rugby, and uses instrumented mouthguards, player interviews and neck strength testing to understand how head impacts are experienced and exposure could be reduced.
Freja, from Ammanford, explained what is new about her work and how the Livery Company award will support it:
“Research has found that women experience head impacts differently to men, and have weaker neck strength, as a result of both biological and societal sex differences. Women are also more likely to take longer to recover post-concussion than men.
At Swansea, we have developed a novel neck strength testing device, built by a local engineering company. This can record high-quality multi-directional strength and imbalance data, which helps with the research but can also be used to offer individualised feedback to players.
I am very grateful for the award from the Livery Company. It will enable me to travel to Welsh women’s rugby clubs to offer neck strength testing and workshops on concussion awareness.”
Rachael Kemp described how the Livery Company award supports her research:
“My research aims to understand how we can optimise the use of exercise to reduce cancer risk.
During my PhD, this has involved comparing the effects of serum conditioned by different types of exercise on cancer cell growth and migration. The next steps would be to investigate the mechanisms underlying the effects.
Thanks to the award, I was able to attend a training workshop in London to learn new molecular biology techniques. This opportunity provided practical experience in techniques including RNA extraction, RT-PCR, transfection, and western blot, which I can apply to future work to elucidate the mechanisms, identify therapeutic targets, and ultimately help to optimise exercise prescription for cancer prevention, treatment and survivorship.”
The Worshipful Livery Company of Wales was founded in 1993 and one of its aims is to “promote education, science, technology and the arts in Wales”. This it achieves by helping young people throughout Wales to develop their talents and skills by means of an annual awards programme of scholarships and bursaries to students in schools, universities and technical colleges, as well as to apprentices and young people in the armed forces.
Find out more about the Worshipful Livery Company of Wales
Sylvia Robert-Sargeant, one of the judges for this competition, in making these awards to Rachael and Freja, said:
“One of The Company's aims is to encourage and support students to progress with a specific project. We raise funds through various charitable events and also by reaching out, not only to our Liverymen for financial support, but also to the wider community in Wales by inviting Welsh business circles, foundations and other organisations interested in promoting education, science, technology and the arts in Wales, to support our activities.
Both of these exciting projects illustrate how such cutting-edge work can make a vital contribution to research in Wales. We are also delighted to be able to support both Freja and Rachael in taking forward their research projects.”