Alastair Sloan

Great chat sessions this morning. Now back to the day job and await the eviction. Good luck guys!

Favourite Thing: Get a result that works!!! It’s probably the Scientist’s version of scoring a goal!



Baines High School, Poulton-Le-Fylde, Lancashire from 1983-1990


1990-1993 BSc (Hons) Biomedical Sciences at the University of Wales; 1993-1997; PhD in Oral Cell Biology at The University of Birmingham

Work History:

1997-1998, Wellcome Trust Postoctoral Research Fellow at the School of Dentistry, The University of Birmingham; 1998-2000, School Research Fellow, School of Dentistry, The University of Birmingham; 2000-2005, Lecturer in Oral Biology, School of Dentistry, The University of Birmingham; 2005-2007, Lecturer in Bone Biology & Tissue Engineering, School of Dentistry, Cardiff University; 2007-2010, Senior Lecturer in Bone Biology & Tissue Engineering, School of Dentistry, Cardiff University


School of Dentistry, Cardiff University

Current Job:

Senior Lecturer in Bone Biology & Tissue Engineering

Me and my work

I’m a craniofacial biologist and my research is focussed on understanding the repair processes in bone and teeth and tapping into these natural repair processes to develop new clinical treatments for orofacial medicine

I lead a research group with interests in all aspects of hard tissue (bone, teeth) regeneration. We have projects investigating how stem cells from the dental pulp (soft middle part of the tooth) can repair decayed teeth naturally and if we can use this repair process to develop new treatments for dental decay.

Dental pulp stem cells








Dental pulp stem cells stained with a protein marker (green). The nucleus is stained blue

We are also interested in understanding how inflammation in gum disease (periodontal disease) and rheumatoid arthritis causes damgae to bone and if we develop new ways of preventing this or treating it. Another area of our work is concerned with developing new exciting materials that are antimicrobial for use by the dentist in root canal treatment and also by the orthopaedic surgeon when treating osteomyelitis (infection in the bone). This work also crosses over with another area of interest which is bone regeneration around implants and ways to improve bone healing around an implant especially in the older patient and in patients with systemic disease (eg diabetes).

Bone cells growing on titanium. New bone can be seen as intense white spots in the centre

I am also involved in developing model systems which replace in vivo animal experiments, so that we can undertake good science ethically. This includes development of a tissue culture system which may be used to test the effects of novel therapeutic molecules, biomaterials and mechanical forces on tissue behaviour. Such models significantly reduce the number of animals used in research and refines experimental design to minimise any in vivo animal experiments that may have to be done before clinical trials.

A slice of mandible (jaw bone) grown in the lab for 21 days. A tooth is in the centre (a ring of hard dental tissue with a soft pulp where the nerves are in the middle), with the periodontal ligament around that attaching it to the bone of the mandible. This can be used to test new materials or drugs rather than use live animals



I am heavily involved with the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) who have funded some of my projects and I attend and speak at their workshops and events. I am currently funded by the Welsh Assembly Government, CLIC Sargent, the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)


My Typical Day

Write research papers, project proposals, discuss data and experiments with my PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, teach my undergraduate students, chat to worried students……oh…….. and attend numerous meetings.

There is no typical day really! I take my eldest son to School several days during the week and when I arrive at work I grab a coffee, turn on the PC and wade through the emails that have arrived in my inbox overnight. I spend my time between writing about my research (papers on our results for journals and project proposals to get more funding to do more experiments) and discussing experiments and results with the researchers who I manage. Seeing new data which proves or disproves your hypothesis is the exciting part! Most days I will also have meetings within the School or University to attend as I am involved in several committees. I also teach both undergraduate and taught postgraduate courses and this is what I call the “hobby” part of the job – talking to people about science that really interests and excites you and being able to pass on that enthusiasm to your students. Answering emails is an ongoing process during the day because if I don’t reply almost immediately, I’ll forget!!!! I usually grab lunch at my desk (unless in a meeting) and spend 30mins reading the BBC website or in the summer keep a check on the cricket score. I tend to leave work between 5.30 and 6 most evenings except Monday’s when I leave just before 5 to get my eldest to take him to Beavers (scouting stuff) where I am also a Leader!. I do some work most evenings once my boys are in bed but the weekend tends to be family time and every other Saturday night I have a gig with one of my bands.

What I'd do with the money

I would use it to buy a new webcam/videocamera and media software to create public information films of my research

A new webcam and media software for my PC and MAC would let me create short 5 minute videocasts of my group’s work – what we do, how we do it, what the results mean (the biology) and how they can translate into clinic (new treatments). This would let me explain our work and what we are trying to do to the public in neat short films so that they not only see what we are doing but understand why we are doing it. Understanding the biology is crucial so that the public can make informed decisions and opinions and not have to rely on hype and sensationalism from one of the media. It is up to us as scientists to make that happen and short, understandable films explaining the facts (not the hype) will help. We spend public money on research, they deserve to know how its spent and why we spend it.


My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Curious, Laid back, approachable

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Red Hot Chilli Peppers

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Flying a hot air balloon

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

To play a gig at Wembley stadium, have a much lower golf handicap, visit the wreck of the titanic

What did you want to be after you left school?

Musician – but I still play semi-professionally in my band every other weekend

Were you ever in trouble at school?

No, I was always a good boy! But I was once told off for lying about why I’d forgotten my football kit in Year 4. Does that count?

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I once gave a talk at the Millenium Think Tank in Birmingham on stem cells to a public audience and got them fully engaged in the discussion where I was able to dispell the myths and hype but get across the actual biology.

Tell us a joke.

Did you know that if a stick insect laid it’s eggs in a jar of Bovril it will give birth to a litter of twiglets