Students Staff

22 February 2011

MP swaps backbench for lab bench

Colchester Campus

Stephen Metcalfe MP and Professor Chris Cooper

Stephen Metcalfe MP got first-hand experience of some cutting-edge research during a visit to the University.

Mr Metcalfe, MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, swapped legislation for a lab coat as part of unique pairing scheme run by the Royal Society – the UK national academy of science. The project enables MPs to become better informed about science issues and scientists to understand how they can influence science policy.

During his visit, organised by Professor Chris Cooper from the Department of Biological Sciences, Mr Metcalfe took part in a number of controlled experiments highlighting some of the leading research being carried out at Essex. Mr Metcalfe performed science demonstrations which illustrated research into creating a blood substitute and had his muscle oxygen measured while exercising on a bicycle.

Professor Cooper has already visited the Houses of Parliament as part of the pairing scheme’s ‘Westminster Week’. This provided Professor Cooper with a behind-the-scenes insight into how science policy is formed as well as an understanding of the working life of an MP.

Speaking about the visit Mr Metcalfe said: “I think science is a key driver of the UK economy and I found it illuminating to see real scientists in action. The more politicians and scientists get to know each other's working worlds the more we can ensure that future policies take advantage of the scientific expertise we have in the UK.”

Professor Cooper added: “From my time with Stephen I have learnt about the huge variety of things an MP has to do. It has been especially helpful to see how science informs (or doesn't inform!) government policy via his work on the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. I look forward to many interesting future discussions with Stephen about the interface of science in government.”


Note to Editors
A photograph of Stephen Metcalfe, MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, taking part in experiments at the University is available on request. For more details please contact the University Communications Office on 01206 872400 or e-mail:

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