Electives Annoucement Web

Meet our 2024 Student Electives

Every year, The Scar Free Foundation run student electives with our Partner Member Organisations. This year, we are delighted to fund projects for Poppy Barnes, Evelyn Wong, and Cara Salt.

Our electives give students the opportunity to undertake a research project under the supervision of a senior clinician/researcher.

This year, the three electives are supported by the British Burn Association, the British Association for Plastic, Aesthetic, and Reconstructive Surgeons (BAPRAS) and the British Society for Surgery of the Hand.

Poppy Barnes
Funded by the British Association of Plastic, Aesthetic, and Reconstructive Surgeons (BAPRAS)
Project Title: Timeline of Scar Maturation
Supervisor: Miss Preetha Muthayya FRAC
Institution: Hull York Medical School

Poppy’s project seeks to address an important gap in our current understanding of wound healing: we know that some treatments, like pressure garments, work to reduce scarring, but we don’t know when they are most effective. Because of this, some patients might receive unnecessary treatments.

This project will use data collected from scar clinics from Yorkshire to evaluate how burns scars change (or mature) over time. By studying the types of treatments patients are given, when the treatments are given, and whether patients were satisfied with the outcome, the researchers will be able to identify whether patients are over- or under-treated.

By the end of the project, we’ll know more about the timelines of scar healing. This study could be used to make recommendations - influencing NHS staffing levels, reducing unnecessary procedure, and improving treatment for burns patients by saving them time and setting more realistic expectations.

As a final year medical student, it is an honour to be offered academic support by a world-renowned organisation such as Scar Free Foundation. The elective bursary unlocks an opportunity to explore a personal area of interest in scar healing while also providing a platform of personal development within research. I am grateful and enthusiastic to begin my project.

Evelyn Wong
Funded by the British Society for Surgery of the Hand
Project Title: An in-vitro laser axotomy model for peripheral nerve injury: investigating Golgi apparatus and cytoskeletal dynamics in adult dorsal root ganglion neurons
Supervisor: Dr Raman Das and Mr Adam Reid
Institution: University of Manchester

Peripheral Nerve Injuries (PNIs) affect how the brain communicates with muscles in our arms, hands, legs, and feet. They are common: in the UK, it's estimated almost 1 in 10 people aged 55 or over are affected by PNIs.

Despite surgical repair, most people never recover fully. To understand more about how we can treat these injuries, we need to understand more about the regenerative abilities of damaged nerves.

The project will use a special laser to injure neurons (from dorsal ganglion cells), mimicking the damage done by PNIs. By using this laser, the team will be able to observe how nerve cells heal - in particular looking at the Golgi and cytoskeletal apparatus of the cell changes.

By the end of the project, we will know more about how nerve cells heal, what influences the rate of healing, and how the Golgi Apparatus changes during healing. There will also be a new robust framework established for duplicating PNIs in single cells, which could open the door to many new studies in various fields.

I am very grateful to Scar Free and BSSH for this unique opportunity to conduct my research elective at the University of Manchester. My elective is on a topic I am deeply passionate about - investigating peripheral nerve regeneration with the goal of supporting the repair process for patients after traumatic nerve injuries. I hope my work will uncover valuable insights about the intracellular regenerative mechanisms which can lead to development of novel therapies to improve nerve repair outcomes.

Cara Salt

Funded by the British Burn Association
Project Title: What is the impact of parents/caregivers viewing child scald prevention materials?
Supervisor: Dr Laura Shepherd and Dr Gemma Hurst
Institution: Staffordshire University

In 2022, scalds accounted for 60% of all burn injuries in babies and toddlers treated at A&E Departments. All of those children risk life-changing scars.

While we unlock the secrets to scar free healing with our other research, the easiest way to prevent scarring is to prevent scarring injuries in the first place. Currently, there’s no clear answer to whether scald prevention interventions aimed at parents/carers are effective.

Cara’s project will investigate the impact of child scald prevention materials used in the UK on parents and caregivers. 100 participants will take part. They’ll each answer questionnaires measuring whether their attitudes and beliefs around scalds and scald preventions change. Data will be collected once before seeing the scald prevention materials, again immediately after, and finally two weeks later.

By the end of this project, we’ll have a better understanding of how effective scald prevention materials are, and if they can be improved.

The Scar Free Foundation & BBA Elective award has given me the opportunity to develop my research skills and allowed me to explore how Health Psychology concepts, e.g health behaviour theories can inform burn injury prevention research. Despite growing initiatives aimed at reducing childhood scalds in the UK, they remain frequent. I’m hopeful that the findings help us learn more about if and how child scald prevention initiatives are in the UK are effective, and how they may be improved.

We are very grateful to our Partner Member Organisations who part-fund the electives, to the supervisors who oversee these awards and to members of the Foundation’s Research Council who review the elective applications and the final reports. We hope to offer another round of electives in early 2025 and are excited to hear more about Poppy, Evelyn, and Cara’s projects as they get underway.