Preparations for the field trip this year had a different feel to them. Our trip would encompass three different parts, Part 1: a workshop on Research Ethics, Part 2: a visit to a previously visited site, Madziwa and finally Part 3: a visit to a new site as a new study gets underway. This was the second trip I had been involved in, not that this makes me an expert in any shape or form but I had an inkling of what was in store for the team. Once again we would be travelling into rural Zimbabwe to help and learn from our colleagues from the University of Zimbabwe.
Today has been a long time in the planning. The TIBA grant was formally announced some time ago through the usual University information pipelines. This funding however really deserved something with a bit more impact.
Sometimes being a scientist can be rather cool. This cool aura often materialises when we go out to talk to children about what it is actually like to do science for a living.
Every now and then schools have, as part of their curriculum, a “Bring your parent to school” event where parents come into the school and discuss with pupils what it is like in their particular profession. One sunny Monday morning in May was our opportunity to convince the pupils at Heriots that life as a scientist was just that: cool!
Our remit was simple and clear: go out to Zimbabwe and for two weeks collect urine, blood and stool samples from the young children who had been enrolled in our study into childhood schistosomiasis a year ago. The process for the field trip starts months in advance with multiple emails to and fro between ourselves and our Zimbabwean counterparts. Shopping lists galore of consumables which would be required while we were out in the field. This mounted up over the ensuing months and culminated in a grand total of 12 large, boxes which had to be shipped from Edinburgh to Harare.
Our group is made up of epidemiologists, immunologists, mathematical biologists, molecular biologists and medics who all bring their expertise to advance current understanding of schistosomiasis; the parasites, the hosts, the infection and the disease. Our ultimate goal is to inform schistosome control and help improve the overall health of people living in schistosome endemic areas.
We have strong collaborative links in Africa, where all our fieldwork is conducted.