The Sunscreen Challenge

On Saturday the University of Liverpool held one of its “Meet the Scientists” event at the World Museum. At these events, various groups from the uni run stands about their area of research and try to educate and inspire the next group of scientists. Ar18422943_10158721284455444_8351530329978430675_oound 1000 parents and children attend and this weekend had  stands about; the art of paint, how clean are your hands, pathogen vs immune system, cell cookies and disease detectives. In addition the Hamill lab team ran our “sunscreen challenge”



Our stand involved taking pictures using a specialised  camera that is only sensitive to ultraviolet light and then challenging the kids and adults to apply sunscreen as effectively as possible. Where the sunscreen had been applied the UV light was absorbed and the images appear black, but anywhere where they had missed gave back lighter tones.

Here are some good examples, where the people have done well.

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and a few examples of people who “missed a bit”

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We could also tell when people has used make up or moisturiser that contained SPF, here is Karen and one of the helpers on another stand. Note the neck line on Karen to see the difference in UV absorption due to the SPF.

We were constantly busy throughout the day, taking a total of 300 photos (50 per hour), including a bunch  where we took before and after shots (after lunch the queue was too long so we could only do afters)

By lucky coincidence last week was also “sun awareness week” and we were able to piggy back on the end of that and distribute information sheets courtesy of the British Skin 18404174_10158721284445444_8199184143473074534_oFoundation (who also support the molecular biology research into skin cancer that goes on in our lab).

To learn more about skin cancer check out the BSF information pages here or the British Association of Dermatologists pages here they are both excellent resources.

The whole event was great fun. Not just for the kids but for the adults and our team too. There were quite a few fun applications, not quite what we had in mind but hilarious!


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Here are another set of photos of the stand in action

We’ll be doing this again soon, so look out for the next event at the world museum in early July if you fancy a go!

Of course, at the end of it all, the “sunscreen team” had to have a go with the UV camera too….

sunscreen team

left to right, Liam, Conro, Lee and Kevin – the sunscreen team


British Skin Foundation Studentship Available in Hamill Lab

See below for details;

PhD Studentship: Dissecting the Role of LaNts and their Receptors in Epidermal Wound Healing and Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

Stipend: £13,863 pa

Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, Department of Eye and Vision Science

Location: Liverpool

Project starting date: 1 December 2014

Closing date for applications: Friday 27 June 2014

Eligibility: UK or EU citizens only

Supervisors: Dr Kevin J Hamill and Professor Colin Willoughby

Research Project

All forms of tissue remodelling, including wound repair and tumour cell invasion, requires coordinated modification to the extracellular matrix (ECM), the cytoskeleton and to cell-matrix interactions. Expanding our fundamental understanding of epidermal wound repair and squamous cell cancer invasion and

metastasis is a critical step to identifying new therapeutic strategies in these areas. This project will

investigate the roles of a recently identified family of small, secreted proteins, which our preliminary data strongly implicate as being important regulators of both these processes. These proteins, termed LaNts, structurally resemble a family of extracellular signalling molecules, the netrins, which have defined roles in the regulation of cell migration during nerve growth, organogenesis and tumourigenesis. By analogy, we hypothesise that the LaNts may be the skin equivalent of the netrins. This studentship is designed to characterise the role of the LaNts and netrin receptors in skin biology with particular emphasis on the regulation of keratinocyte motility, proliferation and invasion. The work is split into two connected parts. In the first, the LaNt receptors will be identified, the signalling cascades modulated by them characterised and the phentoypic consequences of those signalling events will be dissected in cell lines derived from normal and SCC sources. In the second part, the student will approach the same questions from the side of the netrin receptors. Through a combination of knockdown and rescue experiments each receptor expressed by keratinocytes will be investigated for its contribution to wound repair, tumour invasion and metastasis. The data garnered in these cell culture and 3D tissue equivalent based assays will provide the launch point for future in vivo experiments and, in the longer term, for therapeutic development.


The student undertaking this project will develop expertise in core molecular and cellular biology techniques and also learn valuable skills in the use of complex model systems and cutting edge microscopy techniques and therefore will become extremely competitive for future academic or industry positions.

This project will be primarily supervised by Dr Kevin J Hamill, a lecturer in the Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease at the University of Liverpool with additional supervision from Professor Colin Willoughby.  


The Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease and its constituent departments are fully committed to promoting gender equality in all activities. In recruiting researchers and academic staff we stress the supportive nature of the working environment and the flexible family support that the University provides. The Institute has recently been awarded a bronze Athena SWAN award in recognition of on-going commitment to ensuring that the Athena SWAN principles are embedded in its activities and strategic initiatives.



  1. Hamill KJ, Langbein L, Jones JC, McLean WH. Identification of a novel family of laminin N-terminal alternate splice isoforms: structural and functional characterization. J. Biol Chem, (2009) 284:35588-96.
  2. Hamill KJ, Kligys K, Hopkinson SB, Jones JC Laminins: Complex Molecules with complex assembly States. J Cell Sci, (2009) 122:4409-17
  3. Hamill KJ, Hopkinson SB, Hoover P, Todorovic V, Green KJ, and Jones JC. Fibronectin expression determines skin cell motile behavior. J Invest Dermatol (2012) 132, 448-457.
  4. Hopkinson SB, DeBiase PJ, Kligys K, Hamill K, Jones JC. Fluorescently tagged laminin subunits facilitate analyses of the properties, assembly and processing of laminins in live and fixed lung epithelial cells and keratinocytes. Matrix Biol, (2008) 7, 640-7



Funding Notes

This project is supported by a three-year award from the British Skin Foundation which covers annual UK fees and a stipend at the Research Council UK rate. Consideration will be given to overseas applicants who have additional funding to make up the difference in fee rates.

For further details or for an informal discussion please contact Dr Kevin Hamill


Interviews are expected to be held around 10 July. To apply for this opportunity please send your CV and covering letter by email to Dr Kevin Hamill with a copy to