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Press release

  • 29 November 2004
  • MP seeks a science formula for success at Sussex

    Dr Des Turner and Dr Paula Clements take a closer look at one of their experiments

    Dr Des Turner and Dr Paula Clements take a closer look at one of their experiments

    Scientist and politician Des Turner MP sampled a little bit of culture during a visit to the University of Sussex this week - by growing some in a Petri dish.

    Biochemist and botanist Dr Turner, once described by the BBC as "one of the most highly qualified of Labour's 1997 intake", tried his hand at some experiments, including growing yeast cultures, when he joined Dr Paula Clements at the University of Sussex Genome Damage and Stability Centre. The Centre carries out cutting-edge research into DNA damage and repair and genetic links to cancer and other human diseases.

    Dr Turner, Labour's member for Brighton Kemptown, was paired with Dr Clements, a Research Fellow in the lab of Dr Keith Caldecott at the Genome Centre, who was selected as part of a Royal Society-sponsored scheme to pair the country's best research scientists with MPs.

    This involved a week at Westminster for the scientists and time in the lab for the MPs, to help give scientists a better understanding of how science policy is formed and to build better links between scientists and politicians. Commitments abroad prevented Dr Clements from taking part in the official week, but she and Dr Turner decided to arrange a separate couple of visits.

    Dr Clements spent two days in Parliament, where she watched Tony Blair in debate during Prime Minister's Question Time in the House of Commons and met the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King. She then played host to Dr Turner, who renewed old acquaintance with the Bunsen burners and test tubes of his academic days.

    Dr Clements, who is carrying out research into the rare genetic neurodegenerative disease AOA1 and its links to DNA repair, says: "The scheme has been a unique opportunity to gain a fantastic insight into the workings of the Government, particularly how scientific research is integrated into political thought. I'm now looking forward to showing Dr Turner what my research into genetic diseases involves."

    Dr Turner has been a leading member of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, which has reported on issues such as the National Cancer Plan, human genetics and embryology and Government expenditure on research and development. He says: "I very much enjoyed going back to the bench. After many years, the rust was extremely thick, but to get my hands on a little leading-edge genetic research was great fun for me."


    Notes for editors 

    For photographs, please contact the University of Sussex Press Office.

    For more information on the Scientists and Parliament Scheme, see

    For information on the work of the Genome Centre, see

    Press Office contacts: Maggie Clune or Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888 or email or


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