Professor Chris Cooper and Stephen Metcalfe MP

Chris Cooper and Stephen Metcalfe Professor Chris Cooper with Stephen Metcalfe MP

In 2010, Professor Chris Cooper, Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Essex was paired with Stephen Metcalfe MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, Mr Metcalfe is also a member of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee.

Chris’ research interests include studies on the major respiratory proteins - haemoglobin, myoglobin, and cytochrome oxidase. As he explains: “these proteins interact with oxygen, from the time it is captured from the air that we breathe, to its eventual consumption in the cell to generate useful energy for the body.”

Chris describes Stephen Metcalfe MP’s visit to his lab:

“My scientific research is all about oxygen gas in biology and medicine: how we get it, how we use it and how too much of it can be a bad thing. The main reason we were in the sports centre was to get an MP on a bike and exercising! Stephen did great; Catherine Hesford, my British Olympic Association PhD student, strapped our near infrared monitor on his thigh muscle. Once I told her to drop the weights down just a bit from those she was used to using with the Olympic athletes!, Stephen was off and cycling. His data could have been a textbook example as his muscle oxygen dropped down as he exercised and came back nicely when he stopped.

I also gave Stephen an overview of the work we are doing on oxygen delivery and consumption and introduced him to the range of funding sources required to keep a research group in place. He met my team and shadowed a meeting of our HaemCo research program.

Stephen then met two environmental microbiologists, Terry McGenity and Corinne Whitby. Corinne discussed environmental problems associated with accessing oil from difficult sources such as tar sands and how new microbial techniques in the department may be able to help. Terry noted his work on the Thames Estuary near the site of the Shell and BP oil refineries (near Stephen’s constituency), demonstrating the potential for oil degradation even at relatively low temperatures, and identifying which microbes were responsible for degrading which components of oil. The discussion inevitably moved onto the environmental impact of the new London Gateway super port, which ensured that the day ended with an interesting debate.”

Applying for this scheme

The 2014 scheme will open for applications from scientists from 22 April to 23 May.

Format of the scheme

Week in Westminster
Programme of activities for the scientists, including a day with the MP or civil servant.

Reciprocal visits 
A visit to the MP's constituency or the civil servant's office and a visit to the scientist's research facilities.