Campbeltown woman works to further COVID-19 research

Dr Yasmin Parr at work at the CVR. Photo: Elihu Aranday-Cortes.
Dr Yasmin Parr at work at the CVR. Photo: Elihu Aranday-Cortes.

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A Campbeltown woman is among the researchers from around the world working tirelessly to better understand the COVID-19 virus and help determine how it is spreading within communities.

Yasmin Parr, who was educated at Castlehill Primary School and Campbeltown Grammar School, is now a postdoctoral researcher at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR), where she worked to achieve a PhD in infection and immunology.

The CVR is the largest grouping of human and veterinary virologists in the UK. The group that Dr Parr works with is interested in many different viruses and the diseases they cause in humans and animals.

Currently, alongside her research into the COVID-19 virus, Dr Parr is working on viruses that infect cats, including feline leukaemia virus and feline calicivirus.

She said: ‘The CVR has lots of people working on all aspects of the COVID-19 virus, whether it’s carrying out laboratory experiments, analysing results from the lab or keeping up-to-date with the current literature that helps inform what important questions should be answered by our research.

‘We are researching possible drug treatments, testing drugs and compounds in cell culture to assess their safety and efficacy, developing assays to better understand the virus, analysing the virus from patient samples and testing patient samples for antibodies against the virus.

‘My work includes analysing the virus’s genetic material and testing patient samples for antibodies. Analysing the virus’s genetic material helps us to understand more about the COVID-19 virus and to determine how it is spreading within communities.

‘Testing patient samples for antibodies can help us to identify people who have been exposed, even if they have shown no symptoms.’

Dr Parr, 27, graduated in 2015 from the University of Glasgow with a MSci in Veterinary Biosciences, a biological science degree that focuses on the biology behind health and disease in animals.

She then went on to do her PhD at the CVR and will officially graduate in July, however, there will be no graduation ceremony and she will receive her certificate in the post instead.

Explaining the route to her current profession, Dr Parr said: ‘I’ve always been interested in animal health and throughout school I wanted to be a vet. I got a weekend job as a nursing assistant in Taylor Veterinary Practice in Glasgow during my final year of school and one of my colleagues there was doing the Veterinary Biosciences degree.

‘I had no idea that I could study animal health and disease without actually being a vet. I worked weekends in that practice for the five years of my undergraduate degree which gave me hands-on experience with animals but I found the science behind disease more interesting. I did my MSci year at the CVR and I’ve been here ever since.’

She added: ‘I feel very lucky that the skills that I learned during my PhD have allowed me to contribute to some of the work being done at the CVR to help with the COVID-19 response.’

Now living in Glasgow, Dr Parr left Campbeltown – where her parents Jim and Kerry Parr and her grandparents Fiona and Robert Middleton still live – to attend university when she was 17.