Dr Gareth Nye is a lecturer in anatomy and physiology at the University of Chester. His main research interests are maternal and foetal health. In our interview, he tells us about his career so far, his research and how he thinks his field will develop in the future.
Tell us a bit about your current position
My recent research has been focused on improving outcomes for both mum and baby before, during and after pregnancy. More specifically I’ve been researching placental causes of foetal growth restriction, whilst also looking into the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on maternity care.
The most enjoyable aspect of my role as a lecturer is getting engagement from the students. When a student is really exploring a topic and that enthusiasm comes out in lectures or otherwise, it’s such a great feeling. With my research being in a field where you can make such a huge difference is also so rewarding. There’s still so much we don’t fully understand around pregnancy, so there is always new areas to look into.
What are you proudest of in your career so far?
There are many career moments that I’m proud of, for a wide range of reasons. Being nominated for “most inspirational lecturer” from students at the University of Chester is an achievement I’m proud of, for both personal and professional reasons.
Additionally, I’m particularly proud of our review of placental oxygenation in the Journal of Physiology and finally, speaking at the International Federation of Placenta Associations conference in Tokyo was an amazing experience!
What do you think are the biggest challenges in your field of research right now?
I think there are multiple challenges within maternal and foetal health and pregnancy research. If I had to name three major themes they would be
- Ensuring every baby is delivered healthy and that every mum remains healthy, during and after the pregnancy. Finding novel interventions to improve foetal outcomes in utero, without the need for early delivery and shining a spotlight on the physical and mental changes that pregnancy has on the mother’s body, both during and after the pregnancy itself
- Fully understanding the impact the maternal environment has on foetal lifelong outcomes – this involves the discussion around Developmental Origins of Health and Disease
- Exploring the maternal/foetal interface to improve outcomes for the baby – this includes the placenta, breastmilk and circumstances following birth
Can you explain more about how you think your field of research will change in the future?
As pregnancy research, particularly in humans, is challenging for a number of reasons I can see the field collaborating more with other disciplines, even though not necessarily involved in medicine. For example, I have recent research papers with mathematicians, engineers and physicists, who can bring their knowledge and expertise to fill in gaps in our biological knowledge. Additionally, with the improvement of imaging techniques, we can slowly begin to understand the important microanatomy of the placenta and uterus to see if/how we can improve pregnancy outcomes. Without thinking of our research fields as one slice in a huge pie, we can never make true advances and so collaborating with different areas is key. Particularly as everything can be influenced by the body’s endocrinology!
What is it like being a Society for Endocrinology member?
I have to say, since joining this society I have felt so welcomed into a community. I’ve been given opportunities that have never been presented to me before from other societies. The Society on the whole seems to actively push and support their more junior members.
Unfortunately, I’ve not had the chance to attend any Society events in person yet but hopefully I will get the opportunity to attend soon!
Who is your most inspirational scientist?
Again, speaking personally, the most inspirational endocrinologist to me is Frederick Banting, the discoverer of insulin. This is because my 4 year old daughter has type 1 diabetes and without insulin, she wouldn’t be with us anymore! I think a lot of people have Banting’s discovery to thank!
John Hunter always sticks out as someone who should be more famous than he is. He truly is one of the greatest anatomists of our time, discovering much of what we know now around anatomy and physiology all without a formal school education. Of interest to my work – he was the first to note that maternal and foetal blood supplies are separate during pregnancy
Any words of wisdom for aspiring researchers in endocrinology?
Speaking from experience, something I like to tell my students is not to stick to your own little bubble. Everything in medicine and biology is connected in one way or another and keeping an open mind to your research can allow you to progress, where you may not have otherwise. Due to this, don’t be afraid to switch “topics” because you can always find common themes.
Finally, make sure you enjoy what you do! I’ve been lucky to work in some amazing areas, with amazing people but what’s really helped is enjoying my work!
The Society for Endocrinology is 75 years old in 2021. As part of our celebrations, we are collecting members’ opinions, with a focus towards the future – after a particularly hard year for us all!
We are keen to reflect the diversity and breadth of our discipline by hearing from members across all backgrounds, career stages, career types and geographical locations, to get a true flavour of the range of views, needs and challenges faced by our Society members.