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Professional Biography

   

Dr James Renwick Beattie is an experienced research scientist and consultant in the fields of biomedical statistics and analytical spectroscopy, with over 14 years practical involvement in developing new analytical procedures and statistical tools for the advancement of biomedical sciences. He current holds the position of Head of R&D at Exploristics Ltd, a statistical consultancy composed of highly experienced and dedicated statisticians specialising in biomedical and pharmaceutical statistics such as clinical trails. He is leading the team developing a novel simulation tool to facilitate the design of complex clinical studies, allowing determination of statistical power when multiple variables must be considered and/or when multiple outcomes or stratification is essential.
 

 

Raman spectroscopy fat oil adipose tissue butter FAMEs fatty acid profile As an undergraduate and early PhD student at Queen's University of Belfast Dr Beattie studied edible fats, demonstrating that Raman spectroscopy could be used to not only predict bulk properties (such as the degree of unsaturation, fatty acid chain length or solid fat content) but also predict a comprehensive fatty acid profile of the 15 most common fatty acids in butter and adipose tissue.  
Raman spectroscopy meat beef pork eating quality tenderness juiciness satisfaction In the latter part of his PhD he investigated the application of Raman spectroscopic methodologies to investigating the eating qualities of beef and pork. He demonstrated that Raman spectroscopy could reliably predict not only instrumentally determined tenderness but also overall consumer satisfaction. 



After his PhD studies Dr Beattie took up a postdoctoral research position in which he was lead Postdoctoral researcher in a consortium spanning 6 departments within Queen's University of Belfast; Chemistry, Ophthalmology, Pharmacy, Respiratory, Oncology and Dermatology. He also collaborated with students from Physics, Food Science and Forensic Science.  In this time Dr Beattie demonstrated a number of firsts:
Ramnan spectroscopy mannitol crystallisation beta delta alpha hemi-hydrate amorphous annealing First ever direct mapping of mannitol crystallisation behaviour in frozen mannitol solutions,
Raman spectroscopy vitamin E tocopherol mapping lung oxidation type ii cells alveolus First ever direct mapping of alpha-tocopherol (Vitamin E) along with its homologues and oxidation products in the lung,
Raman spectroscopy bruchs membrane age ale modification advanced glycation lipoxidation endproducts heme First ever use of Raman spectroscopy to multiplex the measurement of protein modifications in critical ocular tissues,
Raman spectroscopy retina heme cytochrome c DNA lipid DHA First ever use of Raman spectroscopy to characterise the biochemical composition of the retina, 
Raman spectroscopy bruchs membrane age ale modification advanced glycation lipoxidation endproducts heme


Upon completion of this postdoctoral position Dr Beattie took up a further Postdocoral position in order to further develop the application of Raman spectroscopy in the multiplexed analysis of protein modifications in human ocular tissue. In this project, Dr Beattie expanded the number of protein modifications detected and also incorporated information from other biochemical constituents such as collagens, lipids and haemoglobin. Dr Beattie is the first person to demonstrate an association between haemoglobin and protein modifications in human tissue.



Raman spectroscopy noise insensitive background signal subtraction sclera During his research career to date Dr Beattie has developed a strong reputation thanks to his rigorous commitment to high quality research into all aspects of his chosen specialisation. In the course of his research Dr Beattie has developed technical aspects of Raman spectroscopic instrumentation, has developed a novel signal processing algorithm suitable for high-noise data (tested to a signal-to-noise ratio of 0.8), has accumulated considerable experience in application of multivariate analysis and in experimental design. 
Comparing Raman spectra of human finger nails for women at different levels of risk for bone fractureAfter completing his Postdoctoral research at Queen's, Dr Beattie led the Reseach team at Crescent Diagnostics Ltd, developing a novel analtytical approach to predicting risk of fracture in post-menopausal women. He demonstrated that Raman based anlysis of the protein composition and structure of human finger nails could be reliably relatedto the bone health of the donor. This product was launched to market in 2014 as OsentiaTM.

 In addition to the technical aspects of his research, Dr Beattie has consistently worked within extended multidisciplinary research teams, providing leadership and training to fellow students and postdoctoral fellows and has built up an extensive network of academic and industrial collaborators.
   

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Scientific Principles

Problems are our friends

Borrowed from a Honda radio advert, but sums up my number one motto in scientific research. If there is no problem, there is no need for science; so embrace problems, cherish them and indulge them. Whatever you do, don't run away. Problems challenge us to raise our game, to rise above what is currently possible, to explore new ground. Raman spectroscopy is full of challenges; it is a very weak phenomenon (one in a million photons of light carry information) and is easily interfered with by other, much stronger, optical phenomena such as fluorescence. In biological samples this is painfully evident as many of the samples I have worked with over the years have had severe interference from non-Raman scattering phenomena (more than 99 % of the signal can be non-Raman in biological samples) and have recently been developing a system for in-vivo ocular analysis. This requires use of very low laser powers, and so presents a strong challenge. I have therefore attacked the problem on multiple fronts; technological, methodological, signal processing and analytical. By making significant gains in each area I have demonstrated that reliable repeatable assessment of ocular tissue can be made within the current safety guidelines within a timeframe realistic for clinical use.

Mistakes are what we learn from

If they get it right first time and it works perfectly, scientists will not be content - they will want to know why it didn't fail. It is essential to try things that don't work in order to understand more fully what does (even if it never appears in print). I have developed my deep understanding of the various projects and techniques that I have used through a constant poking and probing, trying new things just to discover more (even if I had a result that ‘worked’). The whole process was probably very frustrating to my various supervisors, but their patience has made me a much stronger scientist than I would otherwise have been. Many of my efforts have been blind alleys in terms of eventual reportable results, but they have proven invaluable for me to understand the science I have chosen to explore. And of course there are the times when you discover that there is a better solution than the mediocre one most would have stopped at.

Curiosity doesn’t kill cats

Not assessing the dangers does. Curiosity is something fundamental to both cats and humans, but it is something drummed out of us from we are knee-high to a grasshopper. But why? What is round that corner? What would happen if…? I generally resent so-called lateral thinking tests as most are closed with one ‘correct’ answer. You are expected to think in the same obscure way as the person who dreamed it up. It defeats the purpose – lateral thinking is about being different, not the same. Nature allows for lateral thinking without a predefined answer and I think that is why I love science. It is complex and vast, with so much left to explore. I never stuck to the paths in forest parks and I don’t ever intend sticking to the well worn paths in science. I am curious about what is just beyond that fallen tree. I want to explore, I have a voracious curiosity that needs fed. 



   

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