A new way of working


One of the highlights of my week has been the acquisition of a new standing desk. This was previously used by a colleague who left the University at the end of June, and so I’ve abused my Head of School privilege to liberate it. I’ve suffered with back problems for many years (including a spectacular herniated disk in 2012, which I have never really recovered from) and so I’m going to see if standing for some of the day makes things better than slouching in a chair all day.

The import of a new desk has created a lot more room in my tiny office and so I’m feeling quite excited by all the space too.

My desk has an electric control that allows me to set it to any height, and so the plan is to spend about 3 hours a day with it raised up to about elbow level for standing work (as in picture), and the remainder of the day has it down in seated mode. I’m finding that I am automatically selecting different types of task for each position. Reading and intense writing gets done sitting down, whilst I answer emails and do editing jobs standing up.

Among the positives I noted so far are:

  1. I’ve actually had some standing up meetings with visitors to the office. That keeps them shorter and by standing by the screens we have focused on specific tasks.
  2. I’ve taken a lot more steps this week- I wander around when I’m thinking if I’m working in standing mode
  3. When I am standing I am less prone to procrastination or daydreaming- in standing mode I am very focused

So far the negatives that I have noticed are:

  1. I am a lot more tired at the end of the day
  2. My feet and knees are hurting- they aren’t used to working so hard
  3. I still haven’t worked out the best ‘mode’ for different tasks
  4. I like listening to music while I work and there is a tendency to either dance, or pretend that I am playing keyboards in a band, whilst I am working. Both are very embarrassing if someone comes into the office without me noticing. The new layout has me with my back to the door. Thufir Hawat’s admonition to Paul Atreides is ingrained in my brain, so I’m most uncomfortable.

New paper accepted

We recently had the very good news that former PhD student Grace George (now based in New Zealand) has had her first paper accepted for publication in Scientific Reports. Grace’s PhD considered the effect of feeding a cafeteria diet to rats pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy and during lactation, on the metabolic health of the resulting offspring.

Ironically, this first paper accepted is the second in a series. It looks at the post-weaning characteristics of the offspring. The first in the series describes the impact of the diet on maternal weight and nutrient intake, and is currently under review at the same journal.


Exposure to maternal obesity during suckling outweighs in utero exposure in programming for post-weaning adiposity and insulin resistance in rats.

Grace George, Sally A.V. Draycott, Ronan Muir, Bethan Clifford, Matthew J. Elmes, Simon C. Langley-Evans.


Exposure to maternal obesity during early development programmes adverse metabolic health in rodent offspring. We assessed the relative contributions of obesity during pregnancy and suckling on metabolic health post-weaning.Wistar rat offspring exposed to control (C) or cafeteria diet (O) during pregnancy were cross-fostered to dams on the same (CC,OO) or alternate diet during suckling (CO,OC) and weaned onto standard chow. Measures of offspring metabolic health included growth, adipose tissue mass, and 12-week glucose and insulin concentrations during an ipGTT.Exposure to maternal obesity during lactation was a driver for reduced offspring weight post-weaning, higher fasting blood glucose concentrations and greater gonadal adiposity (in females). Males displayed insulin resistance, through slower glucose clearance despite normal circulating insulin and lower mRNA expression of PIK3R1, SREBP1-c and PIK3CB in gonadal fat and liver. In contrast, maternal obesity during pregnancy up-regulated the insulin signalling genes IRS2, PIK3CB and SREPBP1-c in skeletal muscle and perirenal fat, , favouring insulin sensitivity. In conclusion exposure to maternal obesity during lactation programmes offspring adiposity and insulin resistance that overrides exposure to an optimal nutritional environment in uterothat cannot be alleviated by a nutritionally balanced post-weaning diet.