The Science Bit: Part 6 – A Nobel way for infertile couples to conceive

30 11 2010

British physiologist Professor Robert Edwards has recently been awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his pioneering development of the In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) technique. IVF has given hope – and children – to thousands of childless couples over the last 30 years, and the procedure is being improved all the time.

There are many reasons why some couples can’t conceive the baby that they so long for, and until fairly recently, childless couples had adoption as their only hope of bringing up children. However, in the mid 1960s, Cambridge Professor Robert Edwards began to study human fertilisation and was successful in creating the first embryo outside of the uterus in 1968. Ten years later, and the technique had been developed and improved so much that on 25th July 1978, Louise Brown, the world’s first “test-tube baby” was born. Since then, it is estimated that more than 4 million children worldwide have been born as a result of this life-changing procedure.

Normally, a female’s eggs are released into the uterus one at a time over the course of the normal menstrual cycle. In order to obtain the highest possible chance of pregnancy however, a woman who wants to undergo IVF will first need to start a course of hormone treatment in order to “ripen” a number of eggs all at once. These are then extracted from the ovaries and mixed with sperm collected from the father where, hopefully, fertilisation occurs.

The embryos are grown in an incubator for a few days and a maximum of 3 are then selected to be implanted into the mother’s uterus – the rest are frozen in case of future need. Only 1 in 5 embryos will successfully implant into the uterus and result in a pregnancy and while this doesn’t sound like very good odds, it’s actually very close the number of pregnancies achieved without IVF.

One of the problems with IVF is that it carries an increased risk of multiple pregnancy. Because of the high cost of IVF – around £4000 to £8000 per cycle, it is something that many couples can only afford to do once, and if using more than embryo gives the greatest chance of success, then this is the option most parents choose. While 8 babies in one go – like “Octomom” Nadya Suleman – is very rare, twins or even triplets are fairly common, but though it may be a blessing for some, a multiple pregnancy carries a much greater risk of gestational complications for the mother, a low birth weight and premature birth for the babies, along with an increased risk of congenital abnormalities. Is it worth risking the health of the mother and the babies to get it right first time?

The general medical consensus is no, the best choice is to opt for single embryo transfer, yet around two thirds of parents still choose to implant the maximum number of embryos that they are allowed (in the UK, two for mothers under 40, three for mothers over 40). Researchers from the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre in the Netherlands predicted that this tendency for parents to go against expert opinion was a result of poor pre-natal care and support provision, as well as the cost factor.

In a simple randomised controlled trial, they looked at the effects of providing better means for parents to make an informed choice, as well as the option to undergo a second cycle of single embryo transfer IVF at no extra cost if the first cycle failed.  Indeed, in their findings recently published in the British Medical Journal, they found that uptake of single embryo transfer IVF was increased when this safety net was offered. Though the results were not statistically significant, the researchers are confident that by improving the amount and quality of information available to those considering IVF, ”a multifaceted patient empowerment strategy… could be an important tool to reduce the twin rate after in vitro fertilisation”.

Nelson James Sheriff’s Officers and Messengers-at-Arms

27 11 2010

Not really being much of a legal beagle, the copy for the Nelson James website – a debt recovery and judgement enforcement company based in Scotland – was a challenge for me. Nevertheless, it was made much easier and more enjoyable by working with Andrew Crane, one of the company’s partners and fellow Belle & Sebastian fan!

Nelson James are Sheriff’s officers and Messengers-at-Arms, which to anyone outside Scotland won’t mean much, but in essence it means that they are legally authorised to serve summons to court and other legal documents. Since a part of what they do is to serve notices of debt recovery, Andrew said that he hates being mistaken for a bailiff and one of the best parts of his job is getting out and about, meeting people and offering them real help and advice.

I’ll have to confess that some of the copy on the site has been altered from what I originally wrote and agreed with Andrew (his partner made some changes), but the majority of what is there was my own work. In any case, at least I’ve learned a bit about the Scottish legal system!

FAQ: How do I place a bid on a project?

25 11 2010

I was recently asked this question in a comment on this post, so rather than simply replying to the comment, I’ve decided to give it’s own blog post. Perhaps others will also find it useful!

So, to place a bid on a project, it goes without saying that you need to register for a account. You can find out how to do this by reading Freelancer‘s own FAQS, under “About > How do I sign up?” Please please PLEASE READ the Terms and Conditions, and also the Code of Conduct to make sure that you understand what you are signing up for, and the rules and regulations you must abide by. If you don’t follow these rules, don’t be surprised if your account is suspended!

To bid on a project, you first need to find a project that you want to bid on. When you signed up for an account, you specified which project categories you were interested in – you can only bid on projects in these categories. Visit the “browse projects” page and click on the categories you are interested in to search for appropriate jobs. Alternatively, you can sign up to have emails containing brief details of the projects in your categories sent to your inbox every day, often multiple times a day. This ensures you never miss out on that really great project.

When you have found a project you think that you are qualified for and would like to do, click on the “bid on this project” button to be taken to the bid form. Here, you will need to enter your bid amount, either in US dollars, or the currency specified by the buyer (the person who has posted the project). Your bid must be what you would like to be paid for the entire project – you are not allowed to submit a “placeholder bid” (an approximate or estimated bid). If the buyer hasn’t provided enough information to allow you to judge this properly, you’ll need to ask for more information on the public message board (click “Post message on project clarification board” on the project’s main page). Annoyingly though, you’ll have to check this message board at regular intervals to see if the buyer has replied to you – there is currently no way of being notified of replies. Also worth bearing in mind is that Freelancer does not allow you to place a bid for an hourly rate.

Next, enter the number of days that you would expect to complete the project in, from the day that the project is awarded. You are not duty-bound to meet this deadline, although your buyer may be annoyed if you run over schedule and you haven’t cleared it with them first, but you should try to be as accurate as possible. There is no point saying you can do something in 1 day if you also have other deadlines to meet or the project will clearly take much longer.

The next piece of information to enter is the initial milestone percentage required. This is like a security deposit, except that you don’t get the money in your account straight away. If you are awarded a project with a total value of, say, $100, and you request an initial milestone of 50%, then the buyer should set up a milestone payment of $50 for you, after they have accepted your bid but before you start work. This money leaves the buyer’s account, and is held securely by Freelancer until you have completed an agreed amount of work and the buyer releases it to you.

Underneath the milestone percentage box, there is a check-box that you should tick if you want your bid to be “highlighted”. Personally, I think this is a waste of time and money. All that happens for your extra $1 USD is that your bid appears with a different coloured background and a box around it to make it stand out from the rest. For me, the best way to make your bid stand out from the rest is to write a well-written bid proposal that convinces the buyer that you’re the best person for the job! Please note, if you do use this option, you must have sufficient funds in your Freelancer account to pay for it upfront – you will not be able to use this option if your account balance is negative or zero.

Next is the really important bit: your bid proposal. Actually, what I usually do in the “details of your bid” box is write something like “Please see the private message board for further details of my bid”, and then I put my proposal in a private message to the buyer (check the “Also send a private message to the project seller” box). It’s up to you whether you choose to make your bid private like this, but I do it this way because a) I don’t want other people to copy my bids and b) I post links to my portfolio and I’d prefer not to broadcast these to the world and his wife. Whichever way you choose, your bid proposal is CRUCIAL. The price and turnaround time are of course important, but what will really sell you services to the buyer is what you write here. You need to convince the buyer that you have the best skills and experience to do the project better than any of the others. There are many tips I could give, but my top 3 would be:

  1. Be as descriptive as possible – a one sentence bid just won’t cut it. You need to give details about why you’re the best person for the job.
  2. Write in good English (or another language if this is specifically asked for) – many buyers will be put off by poor spelling and grammar.
  3. Post links to relevant examples in your portfolio, if you have them. If a buyer can see that you have completed similar projects before, this gives you a definite advantage over other people who have less experience. (But be careful if uploading samples of your samples of your work. If you own the copyright, make it clear to the buyer that the samples are not for reuse, and if you don’t own the copyright (i.e. it is something that you have produced for someone else), make sure you have the copyright holder’s permission.)

The last check box on the bid form is the “Notify me by e-mail if someone bids lower than me on this project” box. I never use this as I’m not interested in being the cheapest bidder – I want to be the best bidder – but if you are concerned with price, then check this box.

I hope this helps some of you new Freelancers out there, but please do ask if you have any further questions and I’ll try to answer them as best as I can!

Freeklancer 3: Devil’s advocate?

19 11 2010

It’s been a while since the last of my Freaklancer posts, but another fine example of oddball usage came and plopped right into my inbox this very afternoon. Today, Dimitris900, an unrated buyer from Greece, is looking to hire someone who can tell him whether or not he saw the Devil. 17 years ago. Here’s the post:


My name is Dimitris.I am 36 years old.I want to describe my story that bothers me for more that 17 years.
My story begins when i was 18 years old.
That time,i had a girlfriend whose mane was Georgia.Although she was not a smoker and never drinking alchohol,she died by cancer.She was only 16 years old and i am still missing her very much.
After her death,i was in contact with her sister who was 26 years old.
That time,i decided with my sister to go on a trip to Aegina,a smal island in Saronic goalf in Greece.We went to Aegina and we stayed at night in Aegina,a small island in Greece.While we where at the boat,she(her name was Johanna),used to tell us how she was involved with satanism.It was her releagion,she loved the Beast!!
We arrived in Aegina,and we stayed there for the night in a small hotel.I was socked about her stories.At the hotel,there where 3 bedrooms.I was sleeping in the midle and my sister on the right and Johanna at the left.At about 2am during the night,i wokw up,i opened my eyes and i was looking at the left and i saw Johanna sleeping,but what i saw i cannot forget it in my life.!!
I saw Johanna looking at me.It was the worst experience in my life.Her face was completely changed.Her eyebrows had changed and they where up and in a different shape.Her eyes where become red.She had hair in all of her face.Her hair became black and she had a bad and satanic smile.When i was that,i started screaming and the whole hotel woke up.After my scream,her face became normal and she became a sweet face again.I slept calm after that.The next morning,i didn’t pay attention and i didn’t speak to my sister for three days,as i thought that it might to be just a bad dream.After 3 days my sister told me:”Did you see what i saw?”.I said yes.So,it was not only my experience because at 2am,my sister saw the same of what i saw.The fact that two persons saw the same thing,it is ipmossible to be just a dream as me and my sister where looked the same thing,it cannot be a dream!
This case is really very strange and we cannot explain that fact in a scientific way.After one year i told that to a psychiatrist but the answer was that he accepts this fact and experiant but they couldn’t explain in a scientific way.
I am sure i show the devil!!
I want my friends your opinion and your explanation.I will accept everything you say and i am opened in every opinion.
Thank you.
Really thank you.
I am not a person who sees visions.My health condition is perfect ,i am a biologist and my brain works very healthy.I just want to announce my experiance.
I don’t know how to receive your opinions.
Thank you again for reading my story.

Apart from it not being in the slightest bit clear what Demitris actually needs a freelancer for (though he is clearly looking for something, since he paid extra to have his post “featured”), is it just me or is this not completely mental?! Let’s look at this again: he claims to have seen his dead girlfriend’s sister turn into the Devil whilst on holiday17 years ago. And he’s a biologist! Would a more rational explanation not be something like the effects of grief? A vivid dream? Heatstroke? Maybe his dead girlfriend’s sister was Liz Hurley???


18 11 2010

In case you were wondering why some of your usually smooth-top-lipped friends are currently sporting (or trying to sport!) a moustache, the answer is very simple: Movember. The Prostate Cancer Charity, together with the Everyman Campaign to stamp out prostate and testicular cancer, have hijacked the month formerly known as November to “change the face of men’s health” by raising awareness of male cancers and health issues, and to fund research into these life-threatening diseases.

Movember has happened every November since 2004 and has been incredibly popular in Australia, where the Aussie cricket team have championed the cause for a number of years, but it’s only just starting to make waves here in the UK. This year, Kevin Pietersen and a handful of UK celebrities including Ricky Wilson from the Kaiser Chiefs and Chris Wolstenholme from the band Muse are donating their face to this worthwhile charity.

The prostate is a gland that produces prostatic fluid, a liquid that mixes with sperm to nourish it and help it on its way to fertilisation. Prostate cancer, where the DNA in the cells of the prostate gland becomes mutated and causes the cells to grow into a tumour, is the most common male cancer in the UK. Approximately 36,000 new diagnoses of prostate cancer are made every year, with an estimated quarter of a million men living with the disease right now. Because the prostate is located inside the body, it’s hard to tell if  it has become cancerous, so while, in theory, simple removal of the prostate can cure the disease, it’s often too late and the cancer has spread by the time it is discovered.

It’s essential, therefore, that a cure is found for this often fatal condition but because it deals with, y’know, man’s bits, people don’t often like to talk about it. That’s where Movember comes in. It’s like wearing a pink ribbon to show support for breast cancer research charities, but the ribbon is on your face (and in my boyfriend Tom’s case, it’s ginger, not pink)!

Speaking of Tom he’s currently midway through Movember, where the aim is to start the month clean shaven and cultivate your mo’ as the month mo-gresses. He’s going for a White-Goodman-from-Dodgeball half-handlebar look, which as a proud mo’ sista, I think really captures the essense of Movember! You can check his mo-gress, and maybe even sponsor him here.

Happy birthday to me!

6 11 2010

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me!

Actually, it’s not *my* birthday (that was in September – remember that next year! :)), rather it’s my blog’s 1st anniversary and hopefully, by the end of today I will have had 10,000 site hits!! In the grand scheme of things I guess 10,000 hits isn’t a huge number, but I don’t think it’s too bad considering I have made almost zero effort to market my blog other than posting the odd link on Twitter or to my friends on Facebook!

I decided to start a blog this time last year because my boyfriend had started one (his blog’s here, by the way) and I was not to be outdone. Well that was part of the reason. Having tentatively just started out on my adventures in freelancing I figured blogging would be a good way to get some writing practice in, and if – IF – I should ever get anything published, I could build up a kind of portfolio. Check my portfolio now! I owe a lot of site traffic to my posts about, but hopefully some of you read my other stuff too. If not, please do have a look!

Though I now work full time for BioMed Central, I run Lisa Martin Freelance around this job and am available for all kinds of writing and editing projects. My main area of interest is biomedical science, and I particularly enjoy writing scientific press releases, scientific articles and web copy, copyediting and proof reading scientific research manuscripts, theses and dissertations. However I am also a great writer and editor for all kinds of subjects and it would be my pleasure to help you with copywriting, copyediting, proof reading, press release and blurb writing, and even writing résumés. At the moment I’m writing copy for an online marketing company and a debt collection firm, blogging at LogoBee and Ecolicious Foods (as well as here, of course!), writing press releases, moderating the BMC Blog and co-editing BioMed Central’s staff magazine, as well as other projects that happen to come my way. I’m certainly busy, but I love what I do, so if it sounds like I can help you in any way, please do get in touch! 🙂

Ecolicious Foods blog

5 11 2010

Ecolicious organic food blog Kicking off a new blogging venture with Ecolicious Foods, I’m pleased to announce the launch of the Ecolicious Blog!

I worked with the company director Steve last month in order to write the copy for the main Ecolicious website (which isn’t live yet, but watch this space!), and he seemed to be so pleased with the work I produced, that he’s made me head blogger too! The blog will be updated about 4 or 5 times a month with updates from Ecolicious and all the latest news regarding organic foods, farming and production. It’ll be a learning curve for me, but a challenge that I’m looking forward to !

BDR Jets Netball Team

4 11 2010

Back row L-R: Lou, Gemma, Katie, Becky, Andrea, Bev, Julie. Middle row L-R: Sue, Beki, Michelle, Me, Debbie. Front row L-R: Shannon, Meg, Lesley.

I realise that this post is a little out of character for my blog – it’s about neither science nor freelancing, but, well, my netball team is in the local newspaper and I helped to edit the article. So there.

Here’s the article in the Alcester Chronicle: Efforts pay off for netball team

I joined the BDR Jets this summer, just after I moved from London to Warwickshire. I was looking to meet some new people, have fun and maybe try and get a little bit fitter too, and the Jets promised all three. I hadn’t played netball since I was at school (and even then only in PE lessons, which were really just shooting practice for a county-level classmate), in fact I was more of a hockey player, but most of the ladies sports teams in my new area seemed very serious and competitive. I just wanted somewhere non-threatening and comfortable, where I didn’t feel ridiculous about being completely pants. I found the Jets through a tiny ad on (incidentally, I am also advertised on there as a freelancer ;)) and the rest is history.

The BDR Jets train every Tuesday evening and we play in the Stratford Winter Netball League every Sunday morning. We haven’t won a single game yet, but we don;t mind too much. What we lack in skill we more than make up for in our awesome purple and black kit (proudly sponsored by BDR Voice & Data Solutions of Stratford on Avon).

LogoBee graphic design blog: My posts for October

2 11 2010

Last month on the LogoBee Blog I took a look at clothing retailer GAP’s new look, and their hasty decision to change it back again!

Mind the GAP

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