Dr Christina Karatzaferi, Associate Professor at Plymouth Marjon University’s Faculty of Sport, Health and Wellbeing and Academic Laboratory Director, took her place alongside four other finalists in the ‘Inspirational Women in STEMM’ category at the recent Venus Awards (Devon and Cornwall) held at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Plymouth on April 27th 2018. The prize went to Lucy Obolensky a front-line NHS medic and Plymouth University academic known for her work in Global health.
The Venus Awards - dubbed by Channel 4 as “The Working Women’s Oscars” – celebrate the vital contribution that women in business make to the local, regional and national economy, and are unique in that anyone can nominate a friend, client or family member. This year’s awards saw over 1,750 nominations and over 500 entries.
Christina reached the final for her inspirational research work into muscle dysfunction which she has been carrying out for over 20 years. Moreover, she was recognised for her efforts in inspiring the younger generation of researchers and her fellow women academics to develop their scholarship & leadership through the Women in Science, Education and Research (WISER) co-mentoring network, which she started at Marjon in May 2016.
Originally a high level basketball player, Christina was inspired to start investigating skeletal muscle mass and function when she noticed the differences in her muscle capabilities and those of patients who suffered from chronic illness, differences brought painfully too close to home due to family circumstances.
Skeletal muscle research has a profound impact on peoples’ lives, socially, economically and medically, and thus Christina has had enjoyed funding success for a numbers of years including national and international funding bodies (from the American Heart Association to the EU’s H2020- MSCAS RISE). She is currently working with academics and innovators from over 15 other institutions from Europe, the USA and South Africa on the EU Horizon 2020 RISE programme, ‘Muscle Stress Relief’ 645648. This project is investigating the interactions between skeletal muscles and systemic diseases, and ways to improve early diagnostics to help people prevent problems or regain mobility. The Marjon team, led by Christina is focusing on renal disease stress effects on muscle contractility, using a combination of single muscle fibre mechanics, biochemical and other biological assays. Results so far further bring to the forefront strong associations between muscle status and overall health but go a step further to unveil previously unappreciated skeletal muscle alterations that are bound to become a target for new diagnostics and, hopefully, treatments in the years to come.
Christina explains, “It is fantastic to be recognised for this research and for the important role that women can play in pushing the boundaries when it comes to science, technology, engineering and math. I hope that my place in the finals helps to inspire some of our Marjon students to pursue an area they are passionate about and to use their knowledge and talents to help make a difference to others. I am grateful to past and present mentors, students and collaborators for inspiring me in this exciting scientific journey and to all of my fellow WISER colleagues for their support and enthusiasm.”
Find out more about Christina’s research work and mentoring within Marjon University here.