Alex Munro

Favourite Thing: Learning new things; reading research papers; learning about what others have done, how they’ve approached a problem and what they have found…



Royal Alexandra and Albert School, Surrey (1975-81) (Boarding)


Huddersfield 1985 – 88 (Law); Greenwich 2006 – 09 (Human Nutrition); Newcastle 2009 – 10 (Research Masters)…

Work History:

Liberty Life & Alexander Forbes (South Africa) as legal advisor/pensions lawyer


Newcastle University

Current Job:

First year PhD student

Me and my work

With data from 2 large cohort studies I will see whether protein consumption is linked to physical capability in older people

I’m looking into Sarcopenia: this is the age-related loss of muscle mass and muscle strength caused by a variety of factors that tend to ‘cluster’ in older people. The aim of my Project is to test two hypotheses: (1) that how we eat protein across the day affects our physical capability when we’re older; and (2) that the type of protein we normally eat affects our physical capability when we’re older. I haven’t decided how I’m going to categorise ‘type of protein’ yet, but it will probably be plant protein vs. animal protein or I will try to ‘rate’ them in terms of their amino acid profile…

My Typical Day

No typical day really…that’s one of the good things about being a PhD student!

I walk my daughter to school every morning, then walk into university. Have a cup of tea and chat to my colleagues… 😉

I’ve just finished a Literature Review for my Annual Progression; this involves a lot of reading ‘around my subject’; about ageing & frailty and Sarcopenia in particular: how it’s defined and diagnosed; how muscle mass can be measured in the elderly – the different techniques, their advantages & disadvantages. What causes Sarcopenia and what the consequences are, to the individual and to society.

For my report I also had to discuss my plan for analysis and the Cohort Studies where I’m getting my data from, these are the Newcastle 85+ Study and the MRC National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD).

Before this I was working on dietary data from the Newcastle 85+ Study (one of my cohorts); study participants (all 85 years+) had recorded everything they had eaten in two 24 hr periods. All these food & drink items & the amount consumed had to be coded so that they could be entered into a database. This is a very time consuming process as sometimes the food diary doesn’t give enough information and I would have to look about in books and on websites to get more detail…sometimes it looks as if I’m doing my Tesco online shop, but I’m really not!!

Newcastle university is a very stimulating environment; in addition to my own work there are many opportunities to go to short presentations/lunchtime seminars to hear other scientists present their work, some are other PhD students, some are visiting professors from other universities. We also have a Journal Club where lab members present a particularly interesting research paper and we all discuss it…

What I'd do with the money

I’d want to encourage a dialogue between researchers and schools; I’m a Scientist, but in the flesh!

I’d want to do something like I’m a Scientist – Get me Out of Here, but in the flesh… Arrange (with schools) for a scientist/researcher to visit; maybe to do a short presentation on their area of research, and then have loads of time for questions!

Maybe some of those questions could be provided beforehand – so that the scientist is better prepared!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

A bit scary, inquisitive and determined

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Lisa Gerrard, Adele, Mumford & Sons, Puccini, Mozart, Verdi, Plan B, Melody Gardot, Sarah McLachlan, Madeleine Peyroux, Rihanna, Joni Mitchell…

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Speed about on my motorbike on a warm summers day :-)

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

To be a good mum to my daughter; complete my PhD and be happy :-)

What did you want to be after you left school?

A vet

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Yes; I was caught climbing a huge tree next to the headmaster’s house, and getting my ear pierced twice!

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

To understand and apply principal components analysis to a dataset, and make sense of the results!

Tell us a joke.

I’m rubbish at jokes!