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Cambridge academic and MP take up opportunity for 'job swap'

Dr Susanna Mierau, a scientist from the University of Cambridge, swapped her lab bench for the green benches when she joined Daniel Zeichner MP in Parliament. Then the MP shadowed the scientist in her laboratory.

Cambridge’s MP met the Senior Research Fellow, from the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, as part of a unique pairing scheme run by the Royal Society - the UK’s national academy of science, with support from the Government Office for Science. The scheme pairs scientists with parliamentarians and civil servants so that they can learn about each other’s worlds and explore how research findings can inform policy making.

During the first part of the shadowing scheme, Dr Mierau spent time with Daniel Zeichner in Westminster to get a behind the scenes insight into how policy is formed and how research can used to make evidence based decisions.

Last week began with a reception in Parliament where Professor Brian Cox OBE, FRS, explained why policymakers and researchers must work together to ensure the UK’s excellent science is used to improve people’s lives and tackle global challenges.

This week the Cambridge MP shadowed Dr Mierau in her academic role, including a lab tour to witness the live recording of neurons and a joint lunch with Nobel Laureate John O’Keefe and Head of Department Prof Ole Paulsen. The visit gave Daniel the opportunity to learn more about Susanna’s research.

Dr Susanna Mierau said: “I am a neuroscientist-neurologist at the University of Cambridge studying autism. The Royal Society Pairing Scheme has given me an insider's view to policymaking, and how science influences policymaking, through four days in Parliament, two of which I shadowed Daniel Zeichner.

“As part of the scheme, Daniel will also visit our laboratory. This is a great opportunity for Daniel, as a policymaker, to see first-hand neuroscience research here at the University of Cambridge and to learn more about science policy issues affecting researchers here”.

Daniel Zeichner MP added: “It was great to show Susanna how we make decisions in Parliament. Cambridge is a world leader in science but, since the referendum, there is a great deal of uncertainty about research funding and whether we can continue to recruit top scientists.

“I was pleased to accept the opportunity to see the sort of cutting-edge research that goes on each day in our city. Hearing the views of those doing ground-breaking research helps inform debate, and assists me in my job”

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