2021 Hampton Award Winners Announced

Nithya Nair and Tanya Van Der Westhuizen

July 2021: Two researchers were recently recognised for their commitment to go above and beyond in their MND research.

PhD student, Nithya Nair, and research practitioner, Tanya Van Der Westhuizen, were both recipients of his year's Hampton Award. The award was announced at the latest Euan MacDonald Centre Postgraduate Symposium. It is given to early-career MND researchers who have made exceptional personal contributions to MND research in addition to showing academic excellence. 

MND researchers from across Scotland gathered at the symposium in June to discuss the latest science and research ideas.

The award recipients told us about their work and what this award means to them.

Thank you very much for selecting me to receive the Hampton Award, it is well-appreciated! My name is Nithya Nair and I am a second year PhD student working with the Murray lab at the University of Edinburgh.  My research focuses on understanding the structure and function of the heart in a childhood Motor Neuron Disease (MND) called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). I am investigating the morphological, functional, and molecular basis of the cardiac tissue in various diseased mice models to reveal any defects, investigate how these defects manifest over time, the cellular basis for the defects in the heart, how morphological defects impact upon heart function and what role Smn [SMA] plays in the heart. 

Thanks again for presenting me with this award and I should also thank my lab and the university for supporting and encouraging me throughout. This recognition is another example of the great support that I have received. I feel very fortunate to be affiliated with the Euan MacDonald Centre and I will do my best to merit this recognition.

Nithya NairPhD Student


It is an absolute honour to have been chosen for this award and I cannot emphasise how over-whelmed I am and how appreciative I will forever be for being even nominated for such an incredible award. I have been working in research at the Anne Rowling Clinic for a year and half and worked on the MND-SMART clinical trial since it initially launched last January.

To say it has been a taxing time to recruit to research is an understatement, but I am proud to say that we worked exceedingly hard throughout the year to make sure that MND patients could be seen and be enrolled on this trial. The clinic was shut from March to July and I was redeployed to ICU before we even had a chance to recruit patients that have been waiting since their diagnosis for a trial like this. When I commenced back in my post from working in ICU, myself and the team made up a plan to enable us to recruit everyone in the Edinburgh area who had registered interest. We were lucky enough that we could help nearly every participant on our list.

One of the promises I made to myself was that I did not want COVID to take away from this horrific disease and I wanted to ensure that participants had a chance to enter the trial. Receiving e-mails from family members and participants stating “this is our last chance” pushed myself and the team to help the best that we could given our circumstances.  I am truly honoured to have received this Hampton Award, I would not do anything different in my practices in the clinic as my priority will always be the patient and I would not have been able to do any of the work I have done without the help of the whole team in the Anne Rowling Clinic who have and will always put the patient first.

Tanya Van Der WesthuizenResearch Practitioner 


This article was published on: Thursday, July 15, 2021