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Buddhini Samarasinghe
Attended University of Bath (Undergraduate)
Lives in London
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Buddhini Samarasinghe

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Beautiful London

It's been a month since I started my new job at the Medical Research Council and I really really like it so far! Perhaps the best part is the amazing view I get to see every morning from the window near my desk. And yes, I actually have my own desk, I no longer have to "hot desk".

I am guessing that as the days get shorter I'll be able to catch more sunrise and sunset photos. Stay tuned! 
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Hope you love the work! Keep on keeping on!
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Buddhini Samarasinghe

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The perils of being your own doctor

ALS is a devastating disease. As with any diagnosis for this sort of disease, it is rarely straightforward or quick. From the first suspicious symptom to the first doctor's visit, and then to the myriad of diagnostic tests, followed by visits to the specialists...all interspersed with that awful waiting process in between.

This article is an incredibly well-written account of what it was like for a doctor who noticed ALS symptoms in himself. I love how his writing is filled with empathy and observations of what the process is like, and how his own thought process so closely mirrors the anxiety that the rest of us non-medics can have. Well worth a read!
The Long Read: When an experienced physician became convinced he had ALS, none of the specialists he consulted could persuade him he was perfectly healthy
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There's an excellent book (I read while pregnant, which was helpful!) called Patient From Hell. (He notes that his doctors actually appreciated his active participation in his cancer treatment, and that he wasn't a horrible patient!)

I'll just leave it at that! Also an excellent read for the same reasons!
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Buddhini Samarasinghe

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Rainy Referendum

It's been such an awful campaign leading up to the EU Referendum here. Fingers crossed for Remain, because it's an obvious choice for an immigrant like me living in the UK. In true British spirit it's been raining non-stop all day too.

EDIT: I'm not really in the mood to argue about the referendum, I've seen enough 'commentary' about it to last a lifetime so if the comments on here do descend down to that I'll be closing it. My vote, and my reasons for voting the way I did is not up for debate. Thank you.
Jan Bruun Andersen's profile photoMichael Gregov's profile photoBuddhini Samarasinghe's profile photo
Welp that was good news to wake up to. Clearly a campaign based on hate, racism, and fear works. Americans, please take note - President Trump may be next. Still keeping comments switched off because I rea;;y can't babysit it today.

Buddhini Samarasinghe

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Phew - it's finally official, I think. Contracts have been signed and sent away - in just under two months time I will be starting a new job working as a science writer at the Medical Research Council. Cancer has always been such a personal topic for me (and was one of my prime motivators for working at Cancer Research UK) but I am excited about being able to write about all types of biomedical research, not just cancer. Adjusting to corporate life since I left academia has been 'challenging' at the best of times, but hopefully getting a little bit closer to the science will be a welcome change!
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+Chad Haney I did :) It's awesome!
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Buddhini Samarasinghe

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Opting in for Google Hangouts

As many of you know I have been on a hangout hosting spree these past few months - both through my work at Cancer Research UK, and also with the lovely team at +Mosaic. For example, this Saturday I'll be hosting a hangout about how psychedelic drugs like LSD and ecstasy are helping patients reconnect with their feelings and the difficult experiences in their life (and also how 'The War on Drugs' gets in the way of trying to actually use this more widely!). Link:

I don't want to spam everyone with a bazillion notifications by inviting everyone in my circles, but I also don't want to not talk about these hangouts because otherwise no one will be aware I'm hosting them!

So - I figured I'll just ask. If you want to be notified/invited to watch any future hangouts, could you please indicate via the comments, or by plussing this post? (A simple 'aye' will do!). I'll still share these events through my profile, but I won't specifically invite those of you who don't want to be invited. 

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Buddhini Samarasinghe

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The Broken Calorie

This evening I'll be hosting a +Mosaic Hangout about the calorie. I'm chatting with Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley, hosts of the brilliant Gastropod podcast. 

I will be covering why a calorie is not just a calorie - how some people can count calories and limit their food intake as much as possible and yet never seem to lose weight. How our individual metabolism, the microbes in our gut, the way the food is prepared - all these things can affect the simple calories in = calories burnt equation. It's a fascinating topic, and at the heart of it is this single unit of measurement that seems to be problematic and misleading. 

You can RSVP at the event link below for the live broadcast at 8PM UK time tonight, or catch up afterwards on YouTube.
The Broken Calorie

Calories consumed minus calories burned: it’s the simple formula for weight loss or gain. But our mistaken faith in the power of this seemingly simple measurement may be hindering the fight against obesity. We are just beginning to understand that a calorie isn’t just a calorie. 

What effect do differences in height, body fat, liver size, metabolism, and other factors have on energy consumption? How does our microbiome influence our metabolism and body weight? Does the future lie in personalised nutrition? 

Join us for a Mosaic Hangout on air as we speak to Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley about this fascinating topic. Cynthia and Nicola are hosts of the brilliant Gastropod podcast (, and recently wrote an article about why the calorie is broken for Mosaic. 
This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe. You can tune in on Friday 19th February at 8 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel ( after the event.


Join the conversation using #MosaicHangout  
This Hangout On Air is hosted by Mosaic. The live video broadcast will begin soon.
The Broken Calorie
Fri, February 19, 3:00 PM
Hangouts On Air - Broadcast for free

27 comments on original post
Bhavesh Singh's profile photoVenkatesh R's profile photoBuddhini Samarasinghe's profile photo
+Venkatesh R thanks. I don't think there will be a measurable amount of calorie usage in dream states. 
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Buddhini Samarasinghe

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Wisteria Sanctuary

Kew Gardens is (as many of you know!) my favourite place in London. Today I think I may have found my favourite place within Kew Gardens! This gorgeous pagoda skeleton (not sure what else to call it!) has a vigorous healthy Wisteria wrapped all around it. I can only imagine how gorgeous it would be when the flowers are in bloom, the pale lilac colour adding another dimension to the delicate structure. Enter it through the narrow opening and suddenly you are hidden from the normal foot traffic. The leaves rustle with the wind, and sometimes a few birds chirp amongst the vines. There is a wonderfully comfortable bench to sit on, set on the cool paving stones as you sit and watch the world pass by.

It's also been far too long since I posted a photosphere! 
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I travelled through much of mediterranean Spain at the right time of year once and it was just drop dead gorgeous for wisteria then...
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Buddhini Samarasinghe

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How to Read a Medical Research Paper

Biomedical research is a field that touches all our lives at some point or another. Through it, we have identified new ways to prevent, diagnose, or treat most of the diseases that affect us. As such it is unsurprising to come across people who have various opinions about the accuracy of these discoveries. By confusing large-scale data with personal anecdotes, by mistaking peer-reviewed research with pseudoscience, the waters are made muddy until even undecided fence-sitters become needlessly skeptical thanks to the "well we must teach the controversy!" stories.

All this has led to an unprecedented epidemic of anti-science rhetoric, where overwhelming scientific consensus is regarded with suspicion. Vaccines, genetically modified food, diet, nutrition, chemotherapy, vitamins, supplements, acupuncture, 'cupping' (thanks Michael Phelps)...the list is endless. Matters aren't helped when newspapers overhype findings to increase circulation or clicks - CANCER CURE FOUND or DIABETES VACCINE SORTED or TRUMP MANIA CURED (I wish) or whatever.

So how do you decide for yourself, without being misled by snake-oil salesmen trying to sell their latest elixir or inexperienced journalists trying to get more clicks? Unfortunately academic jargon means reading the original research paper isn't easy unless you have a science background. Assuming the paper isn't behind a paywall and you actually get your hands on a copy, how do you begin to make sense of it? How do you know whether it's legit, so to speak?

It's all the more heartbreaking when patients, who have so much at stake, can end up endangering their health because of false promises. Open access research means more people can access research papers, but that doesn't necessarily mean the research itself is accessible.

Today I stumbled across an awesome, interactive, free to use website that guides people through the process of reading a scientific paper. It teaches you the things you should look out for, such as;

Is the paper peer-reviewed?
Who carried out the research?
Who funded it?
Was it reviewed by an ethics committee?

If it's paid for by a tobacco company and it says smoking doesn't cause lung cancer then you should rightly be very suspicious!

It also teaches you the difference between a review or meta analysis vs an individual study, and whether it's good for basing decisions on. It even goes on to explain clinical studies, and how you should evaluate them before deciding actually no, organic kale juice can't cure cancer...

Check it out -
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I really liked you third headline example.
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Buddhini Samarasinghe

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A Series of 'Lasts'

As I approach my last day working at Cancer Research UK (July 22nd!), I anticipate my time will be filled with 'lasts'. The last time I will interview a scientist. The last time I will write an update on our latest research. Most of these will be sad and filled with nostalgia, but I am looking forward to the last time I have to endure a meeting that mentions the word 'strategy' or 'relationship management' more than 37 times (heh).

Today I had what I think will be my last meeting with donors. Every so often, I get to travel to different locations in the UK and give a talk about the latest advances in cancer research to older people. These events are aimed at people who may be thinking about leaving money in their will as a gift, and my role is to explain how medical imaging has changed the way we understand and treat cancer. It's a really fun talk, filled with videos and pictures, and often times people learn things that they really had no idea about.

I was in Swindon today, and after the event as people were leaving, a lady stopped and spoke with me. She said that her sister had died of lung cancer a few years ago, and it was a really difficult time for her. She mentioned how she has avoided talking about or listening to anything to do with cancer, as it was too painful for her. She said she was unsure about attending the event today, but she was glad she did because she learned so much about some really awesome science. She finished by thanking me for making a difficult topic less scary, and then said "science really is the key for understanding cancer, and that's how we can remove the fear that comes with it".

Public speaking isn't something I enjoy - it's always something I have to make myself do because I hate being in the limelight. But this exchange was a powerful reminder of why it's worth the pain. Because I feel like in some small way, by helping people understand what cancer is and what we can do about it, we can help break down the stigma and fear that comes with it.
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Buddhini Samarasinghe

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Psychedelic Therapy

I had a fascinating conversation this morning with Sam Wong, about using psychedelic drugs like LSD and MDMA for therapy. These drugs help patients going through mental health therapy, by helping them reconnect with their feelings and the traumatic experiences in their lives.

Psychiatry as a field has largely become a palliative care effort - current drugs numb feeling, helping people manage their symptoms and function with their lives without really addressing the root causes of their trauma. Psychedelic drugs on the other hand, used under carefully controlled settings, allow patients to process their feelings and overcome toxic thought-patterns to gain new perspective. It's sad that the War on Drugs has demonised psychedelic drugs to the point where both society and psychiatry view them as unsafe and/or kooky. If you'd like to learn more, watch the video or read Sam's full article on

Mosaic science:

Hangout link:
Manoj Hosmath (Researcher)'s profile photoGod Emperor Lionel Lauer's profile photoJohn Condliffe's profile photoBuddhini Samarasinghe's profile photo
+John Condliffe Haha! Ah I wish, but I definitely don't have that sort of clout with the Google folk! Thank you for your kind words, I am really happy about the new job! :-)
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Buddhini Samarasinghe

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The Joy of Rachmaninoff

I'm not sure how long this video link will stay up for, but this is a fantastic BBC documentary about Rachmaninoff's music, well worth watching if you have an hour or so to spare. Presented by Tom Service who follows the story through Russia, visiting key landmarks that were important in Rachmaninoff's career, it's full of fascinating anecdotes about the life of someone who was deeply devoted to his music. And of course, the music is beautiful, filled with nostalgia and sentimentality.
Michelle Beissel's profile photoBuddhini Samarasinghe's profile photoGuido Bibra's profile photo
Thanks for sharing this, I must have missed this when it aired, +Buddhini Samarasinghe! It's actually blocked here in German for music rights reasons, but I found a way to get around that. Some time ago the BBC did a fantastic "The Story of Music" documentary series from Howard Goodall that was amazing as well.
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A Brazilian Rainforest in Kew

Kew Gardens in London is currently having an orchid exhibition on, and I finally had a chance to check it out today. Inside a tropical greenhouse, filled with lush orchids and bromeliads of stunning colours, it was a lovely escape from the grey dreary winter weather. It was also a chance for some macro shots of interesting flower shapes and colours - I haven't really had a chance to enjoy photography for quite a few months now!

Showing until the 6th of March 2016, it's definitely worth a visit. More details here:
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Have them in circles
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  • University of Bath (Undergraduate)
    Molecular and Cellular Biology, 2002 - 2006
  • University of Glasgow (PhD)
    Veterinary Parasitology, 2006 - 2010
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Molecular Biologist & Science Communicator
I am a molecular biologist and a passionate science communicator. I love engaging the public with current research in the life sciences. Where possible, I use original, open access research papers and I describe the science minus the jargon! 

I am the author of a series of articles in Scientific American, titled "The Hallmarks of Cancer". These jargon-free articles explain the molecular mechanisms that underlie cancer development. 

I am also involved in science outreach through broadcasts on YouTube. I also have side interests in photography, technology, travel, baking, good conversation and food! 

  • I am a strong advocate of science. Therefore I will on occasion write about 'controversial' topics like global warming, vaccination, evolution, pseudoscience and science policy. Beyond a certain point, I will not debate topics that the vast majority of scientists agree on. 
  • I respond to questions on science. Engagement is a vital component of science outreach, and if the topics I write about interest you, I encourage you to join the ensuing discussion!
  • I encourage conversations on my posts. To that effect I maintain the right to ask anyone who joins in to keep the discussion on topic, and not attack others already engaging on the post. 

Science Communicator
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Hawaii - Glasgow - Bath - Colombo - Memphis