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08 May 2019

5 minutes with Cameron Hill

Cameron Hill is a postdoctoral research assistant in Professor Malcolm Irving’s lab in the Randall Centre for Cell & Molecular Biophysics. His current research examines the mechanisms which regulate skeletal muscle contractile function using x-ray diffraction. When Cameron is not in the lab learning the techniques involved in rat heart trabeculae dissection he is supporting his beloved team West Brom. We took 5 minutes with Cameron to learn about his career, research area and what he does with his time outside of work.

Cameron Hill
Cameron Hill

Briefly, tell me about your background and career up to this point at King’s? 

My background has crossed between human sciences, animal sciences and skeletal muscle physiology. I completed my undergraduate degree in 2014 at Coventry University, where I also completed my PhD in skeletal muscle mechanics in November 2018. I examined how age and obesity affect the contractile properties of locomotor (soleus & EDL) and respiratory (diaphragm) muscle function using something called the work loop technique to more closely replicate in vivo muscle function in an isolated muscle model.

More recently, I was working at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in the Structure and Motion Lab where I examined the biomechanical underpinnings of frog locomotion using a variety of techniques including isolated muscle physiology in relation to 2-D kinematic models, 3-D kinematics of frog walking and jumping, and x-ray of moving morphology (XROMM).

What research are you currently working on?

I am currently working as a postdoc in Malcolm Irving’s lab, where I am examining the mechanisms which regulate skeletal muscle contractile function. I am using x-ray diffraction to better understand the mechanisms of thick filament regulation during muscle activation and relaxation, which will involve travel to x-ray sources at the APS synchrotron in Chicago and the Diamond synchrotron in Oxfordshire.

What is a typical day like for you?

A typical day involves a battle to get out of bed and cycle to Bedford train station, where I begin my commute into London Bridge. At the moment, I am currently learning the techniques involved in rat heart trabeculae dissection for the examination of its contractile properties. Thankfully, as I have years of experience dissecting skeletal muscles this hasn’t been too bad! I am also learning about the physics which underpins x-ray diffraction and the theory that is involved in understanding diffraction images of cardiac and skeletal muscles, which is a far harder task!

Where is your research area heading in the next 5 years?

Building on from my PhD, I’d like to explore further the mechanisms which contribute to the age-related and obesity-associated decline in contractile performance at the single muscle fibre and muscle cell level. The next step really is to examine the options available to offset the ageing process and avert, or even reverse, the negative implications of excessive adiposity. I also have an interest in the translational aspect of in vitro research into in vivo models, either in animals or humans, so that would also be an avenue I would explore.

What is your favourite part of your current role?

Having previously worked in primarily in the field of animal biomechanics and locomotion at the RVC, it is nice to be back examining skeletal muscle physiology again. The commute is also a whole lot easier too! The people within the Randall Centre are also incredibly friendly and have made me feel welcome in the short time that I have been here.

What do you do with your time outside of academia?

I am a massive West Brom fan, so I try to watch them play when I have the chance to. I am a keen cyclist and like to get the miles in on the weekends, before relaxing with my family and friends in the evening or heading out for a few frames of pool with a beer or five. I also watch far too many movies…

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self? 

A bit of a cliché but I would have told myself to travel more. Even though I am lucky in that academics have a lot of opportunities to travel, I would have travelled more without the time constraints associated with full-time work. I would also have told myself to expand my horizons further beyond the world of sport science to encompass other areas that could have further enhanced my knowledge.

Who do you look up to (inside or outside of academia)?

As with many people who have recently completed their PhD, their primary PhD supervisor is a massive source of inspiration. In this instance, that would be Dr Jason Tallis, a senior lecturer in biomechanics at Coventry University. He offered me the chance to engage in the world of independent research during my undergraduate degree in a study examining the concomitant effects of caffeine and sodium bicarbonate co-ingestion on exercise to volitional exhaustion. Whilst being an actual participant wasn’t all that fun, being able to take control of a research project which ended up getting published had me absolutely hooked. He has guided me to be the researcher I am today and, without his guidance, I would not be here at King’s.


Favourite Movie: Anything with a cool twist or clever plotline (e.g. The Prestige, Moon, Momento, Shutter Island, Se7en, Predestination).

Favourite Book: Anything by Darren Shan. Beyond that, I don’t really read for pleasure.

Favourite TV Show: Game of Thrones, or any televised football match.

Favourite Scientist: John O. Holloszy (probably the pioneer of exercise physiology).