Skip to main content

Daniel Davis – Four Way Interview

Daniel M Davis, PhD, is The Director of Research in the Manchester Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research – a research institute funded by the University of Manchester, AstraZeneca and GSK. Prior to this, he was a Professor of Molecular Immunology at Imperial College London, UK and Head of the Immunology and Infection Section at the South Kensington Campus. Professor Davis pioneered the use of novel imaging techniques to help visualize key molecular components of the immune response. His work helped establish new concept of how immune cells communicate with each other and how they recognize disease. Dr Davis’ book The Compatibility Gene – was published by Penguin in 2013 and is on the longlist for the 2014 Royal Society Winton Prize.
Why science?
I studied physics first because nothing beats the scale over which physics works – from the formation of stars to what goes on inside atoms. But after my PhD, I decided that it’s perhaps more interesting to think about how life works. So I went to Harvard for a few years to research the immune system. For me, all kinds of science are fascinating – but the added bonus of thinking about the immune system that it can seed new ideas for medicine.
Why this book?
There are genetic differences between people and misunderstanding human variation has led to some of the greatest tragedies in history. A big message of my book is that our greatest genetic differences – the genes that vary the most from person to person – are in our immune system. And it is essential that we have this diversity; this enormous variation is essential to how the human body fights disease. My book is also about individuality on a different level. It’s also a story showing how different scientists contribute – in different ways – to our understanding of nature.
What’s next?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed discussing the immune system with the public. I especially enjoy festivals, like the Hay Festival which I’ve loved for years but this was the first time I got to speak there, and my family’s really looking forward to Latitude in a couple of weeks. So I want to keep talking about The Compatibility Gene a while longer before I commit to another book project but undoubtedly, there are many fascinating stories in immunology that I think deserve more attention.
What’s exciting you at the moment?
My own research is in imaging the way in which immune cells detect signs of disease. My lab team uses new kinds of light microscopes that can detect individual protein molecules in cells. It’s wonderful as we can now study how immune cells work on a nano-metre scale. With this, we can answer specific long-standing questions – like how do immune cells kill cancer cells – but also, just by watching, we can discover entirely new unexpected phenomena about the behaviour of immune cells.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

UFO Drawings from the National Archives - David Clarke ***

This is a lovely little book that, sadly, not every reader will see the point of. If somebody’s anecdotal account of a presumed alien encounter is obviously a misperception of a mundane occurrence, or else too vague – or too far-fetched – to be taken seriously, then it’s all too easy to dismiss it as worthless. But that’s missing the point. The fact that so many incidents are reported in these terms makes the witnesses’ testimony worthy of serious study – to teach us, not about extraterrestrial civilisations, but about our own culture.

That was the core message of David Clarke’s excellent How UFOs Conquered the World published a couple of years ago. Now Clarke is back with another take on the same basic theme.  His day job is Reader and Principal Lecturer in Journalism at Sheffield Hallam University, but for the last ten years he’s also acted as consultant for the National Archives project to release all of Britain’s official Ministry of Defence (MoD) files on UFOs. Throughout the Cold…

Crashing Heaven (SF) - Al Robertson ****

There's an engaging mix of powerful thriller and science fiction in this impressive novel. After the Earth has been rendered uninhabitable, human life is limited to vast space station. Our central character, Jack, has a symbiotic artificial intelligence, Hugo Fist, designed to destroy other AIs in a mysterious collective that is said to have committed an atrocity - but with a kick in the tail that because of an unbreakable contract, Fist will take over Jack's body in a few weeks' time.

Al Robertson packs remarkable technology concepts into the cyber side of this story, from AI corporations that act as a pantheon of gods to the 'puppet' that is Fist (he usually come across as a virtual cross between Mr Punch and an evil ventriloquist's dummy). Robertson does all the cyber stuff so well that it's easy to miss that this is, in effect, a myth in electronic clothing - you could substitute the myths of 'real' Greek gods and magic for what happens here. Alt…

The Science of Food - Marty Jopson ****

This is a tasty little volume, packed with kitchen-based science. I must admit, when I saw that the author was the One Show's science expert and Marty Jopson's author photo has that 'Hey, I'm a mad scientist, kids!' look, my heart fell - I was sure the book would be the written equivalent of a 'Wow, look, aren't I clever, I can make this go bang!' science show - but, in fact, it's packed full of (appropriately) meaty scientific content.

I was really pleased that Jopson didn't stick purely to the chemistry of cooking, but launched with the working of some familiar kitchen gadgets - there was genuinely fascinating reading to be had about apparently humdrum equipment in the form of the physics and materials science of a knife and chopping board. And Jopson took us into industrial kitchens too, to reveal, for example, the remarkable process required to make puffed wheat.

Inevitably, the chemistry of cooking - how, for example, proteins denature and em…