Covid researcher receives young scientist award

Yasmin Parr has received the European Advisory Board on Cat Diseases and Boehringer Ingelheim Young Scientist Award 2021.
Yasmin Parr has received the European Advisory Board on Cat Diseases and Boehringer Ingelheim Young Scientist Award 2021.

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A Campbeltown woman who spent months researching Covid-19 has received a prestigious young scientist award.

Yasmin Parr won the European Advisory Board on Cat Diseases and Boehringer Ingelheim Young Scientist Award 2021 in recognition of ‘outstanding contribution’ to the fields of feline infectious diseases and immunology.

Dr Parr, a postdoctoral researcher at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR), received the honour for her PhD work studying feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) and developing a new diagnostic test able to detect antibodies to FeLV.

This research provides the foundations for developing an antibody-based diagnostic test that will enable vets to assess and monitor the immune response of FeLV positive cats.

Dr Parr, who was encouraged to submit an application by her PhD supervisor Professor Margaret Hosie, told the Courier: ‘I’m really thrilled to have won. I feel very honoured to receive the award and am delighted that my PhD work has been recognised in this way.’

The 28-year-old was educated in Campbeltown – where her parents Jim and Kerry Parr and grandparents Fiona and Robert Middleton still live – at Castlehill Primary School and Campbeltown Grammar School before moving to study at the University of Glasgow when she was 17.

She graduated in 2015 with a MSci in Veterinary Biosciences, a biological science degree that focuses on the biology behind health and disease in animals.

She went on to do her PhD at the CVR, officially graduating in July last year, receiving her certificate in the post because a large-scale ceremony was not possible during the pandemic.

In May last year, the Courier reported that Dr Parr was one of many scientists from around the world tasked with studying the Covid-19 virus to better understand it and help determine how it is spreads within communities.

Her work included analysing the virus’s genetic material and testing patient samples for antibodies.

‘The CVR continues to work on SARS-CoV-2 including genome sequencing, antibody testing and drug screening,’ said Dr Parr, who returned to her regular feline research last autumn.

At the moment, she is focusing on feline calicivirus and feline leukaemia virus.

Dr Parr said she has always been interested in animal health and, while at school, wanted to be a vet but work experience at a veterinary practice in Glasgow led to her doing the veterinary biosciences degree instead.

‘I had no idea that I could study animal health and disease without actually being a vet,’ she said, adding: ‘I love my job. It’s fast paced, I’m always learning and no two days are the same.

‘I hope to continue my work on feline viruses in the future.’