Congratulations to Pawel Swietach, who has been awarded the title of Professor of Physiology.
Head of Department Professor David Paterson said: "I am absolutely delighted for Pawel. He was a first class undergraduate with us, and has now become a first class professor."
Professor Swietach first came to the Department to study a BA in Physiological Sciences, achieving a First Class Honours, before undertaking a DPhil in Physiology on “Factors affecting the spatio-temporal distribution of protons and their permeation across the gap junction in cardiac myocytes."
As a postdoctoral researcher, Prof Swietach's research began focusing on how changes in pH influence calcium signalling, a key driver of cardiac physiology, before being awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship (URF) to study spatio-temporal aspects of pH control in cancer, and how acidic pH affects cancer cell behaviour and disease progression.
In 2011, he became Associate Professor in Cardiovascular Physiology at DPAG. In 2017, Prof Swietach was awarded an ERC Consolidator Award to expand his research in the area of acid-selection in colorectal cancer. In that same year, he began leading a BHF Programme on the role of acidity in hypertrophic cardiac growth, which often precedes heart failure. Since 2011, he has also been a Handa Tutorial Fellow and Governing Body member at Corpus Christi College.
Swietach group research has been instrumental in furthering our understanding of COVID-19. In April, his lab published findings from their newly developed single-cell oxygen saturation imaging technique used to study oxygen handling by red blood cells (RBCs). Their results identified the adaptations that allow healthy RBCs to exchange gases quickly, and explained how disease-related changes may impair oxygen transport. New physiological techniques that measure the blood's oxygen saturation are particularly important as COVID-19 patients present an abnormally low concentration of oxygen in the blood. Following this, the Swietach Group obtained funding from the University of Oxford's research response fund to study oxygen transport in the blood of COVID-19 patients using their successful new imaging technique. In July, his lab consequently presented new evidence against one proposed mechanism of hypoxia in COVID-19, demonstrating that oxygen transport by RBCs freshly obtained from coronavirus-infected patients were no different to cells from healthy donors.
On receipt of his conferral, Professor Pawel Swietach said: “I think it’s time to publicly admit that I love physiology. Its proud history caught my attention early in my undergraduate studies. Its breadth gave me opportunities to perpetually explore new challenges. Its obvious link to health and wellbeing is my chance to make an impact. Its clarity in complexity gives me confidence in what I’m trying to explain. I have been associated with DPAG (or ULP as it was once called) for two decades, and never had a boring day studying physiology. Looking ahead, there’s never been a better time to be a physiologist because ultimately, all biomedical discoveries must be placed in the context of systems, big and small. I’m super excited to be conferred the title of Professor of Physiology. Although this is a personal award, it would not be possible without the students, postdocs, colleagues, mentors, as well as professional services staff I have the privilege to work with in our community”.