Meet Roland Stimson the Society’s 2021 Starling Medallist

Roland Stimson is a clinical academic endocrinologist, Professor of endocrinology and a CSO Scottish Senior Clinical Fellow at the University of Edinburgh as well as an honorary consultant at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. His main research interests are obesity, type 2 diabetes and energy metabolism. Here he tells us about breaking convention to build a career and why loves the discipline.

Tell us about your career path
Although you’re generally told not to stay in one place I’ve done exactly that, I went to university in Edinburgh then undertook my early clinical training just over the water in Fife. I didn’t do a BSc at university as I was keen to start seeing patients during my early clinical training. But I was really interested in human endocrine physiology so developed an interest in research and applied for a clinical fellow position to undertake my PhD with Professors Brian Walker and Ruth Andrew back in Edinburgh. I very much enjoyed this post and continued my clinical and research training with a clinical lecturer position thereafter. Subsequently, I obtained a MRC Clinician Scientist intermediate fellowship and more recently a Scottish Senior fellowship that has allowed me to continue my research in combination with my clinical work as an endocrinologist.

“I was always fascinated by the feedback mechanisms in endocrinology and how you could use these to pinpoint the pathology…”

What inspired you into research?
I’m really interested in human physiology and its dysregulation in disease, from the beginning I wanted to undertake research in humans and have tried to develop new techniques to better understand human physiology. I was always fascinated by the feedback mechanisms in endocrinology and how you could use these to pinpoint the pathology, by definition endocrinology is very much a multisystem discipline and it provides you with tremendous variety.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I really enjoy discovering new mechanisms controlling human physiology, I find that fascinating and I particularly enjoy designing studies to try and answer research questions.

What will you be presenting in your lecture at SfE BES 2021?
I will be talking about our recent research on brown adipose tissue or brown fat in adult humans. This is an organ that increases energy expenditure to generate heat and a lack of brown fat is associated with poorer metabolic health. We’ve undertaken a number of studies in healthy volunteers to determine how human brown fat is regulated and I’ll be talking about the insights we’ve gained.

“I think this is incredibly important to improve patient outcomes not just for our own local patients, but the wider community, and often takes you down paths you never would have imagined so it is a very fulfilling career.”

What do you think are the main challenges in your field right now?
The prevalence of obesity continues to increase and is a major global health problem, therefore we need to find better treatments to safely help people lose weight and prevent the adverse metabolic sequelae of obesity. Many obesity treatments have been withdrawn due to safety concerns so finding pharmacotherapy that can safely achieve weight loss is a major challenge, although there have been some really promising, new developments recently in this area.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring endocrinologists?
I’m not sure I have any words of wisdom but I think endocrinology is a fascinating specialty that will continue to be intellectually stimulating for the duration of your career and contains so much variety that everyone should be able to find areas of particular interest to them. I would also certainly encourage young endocrinologists to become involved in research, I think this is incredibly important to improve patient outcomes not just for our own local patients but the wider community, and often takes you down paths you never would have imagined so it is a very fulfilling career.


You can attend Professor Roland Stimson’s Medal Lecture, “Strategies to turn up the heat – investigating human brown adipose tissue function” on Monday 8 November at 2:30pm.

Find out more about the scientific programme for SfE BES 2021.

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