Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation to close

It is now over 20 years since the SWCF was founded after the untimely death of Dr Simon Wolff, aged 38. At the time of his death Dr Wolff had already made significant contributions to science within the fields of diabetes and free radicals, as well as being an active participant in the campaign for better public transport in the UK.

A fund to further research in the fields in which Dr Wolff was active was launched at his Memorial Service in April 1996. Over the following months it was decided to broaden the scope of the fund and to apply for charitable status. We became an officially approved UK charity in August 1996.

Donations from many well-wishers in the early years, the invaluable contributions of a few regular donors and the efforts of unpaid Trustees have enabled the charity to campaign, fund and promote activities, research and education in the following areas:

  • Transport and health
  • Alternatives to cars
  • Science travel grants at university level
  • Science prizes at school and university level

Part of the remit of the SWCF was to communicate with the wider community about scientific, transport and public health issues. In the first ten years or so, information bulletins were typed up, photographs pasted in by hand and the resulting documents taken to a printing company. Boxes of leaflets were picked up a week later, and the following evenings were spent stuffing envelopes and sticking on stamps. Carrier bags full of envelopes were taken to the local post office and over the coming days the bulletins would be delivered by Royal Mail. How times have changed! Now we have our own website and we communicate with the world by email. The Trustees are unanimously agreed that we do not miss all that stamp licking.

Like many small charities, the SWCF has been run by idealists on a shoestring budget. From the outset we realized we were never going to be in the same league as national charities with generous advertising budgets and full-time, paid staff. Although our contributions may be quite modest on a national scale, we are nonetheless proud of what we have managed to achieve.

Activities and achievements

The SWCF has

  • commissioned and co-funded a report by Professor John Whitelegg on the Thames Gateway Crossing to show that a new bridge would not deliver regeneration, economic revitalization and job creation for local communities.
  • given expert evidence at a major transport inquiry in London into the Thames Gateway Crossing. The scheme was for a motorway-sized road bridge which would have greatly increased traffic in residential areas. It also posed a tremendous threat to Oxleas Wood, one of the few remaining ancient woodlands in London. Using professional statistical analysis, the SWCF dissected the road builders’ own figures and showed that on the whole areas with few major roads, like the London Borough of Richmond, are more prosperous with little unemployment, while areas crisscrossed with major roads like Tower Hamlets are poor and with high unemployment. We exposed a number of contradictions in the road builders’ case, and other objectors also presented cogent expert information. After weeks of deliberation, the Inspector at the public inquiry ruled against the motorway bridge and in favour of the protestors. This decision was highly unusual, and a tremendous boost for organisations campaigning for better public transport.
  • funded a major transport pollution study in collaboration with Birmingham University into air quality in urban areas.
  • written many letters to local authorities and other organisations on public transport issues.
  • set up a system of awarding travel grants to young scientists in the fields of diabetes, free radicals and public health.
  • received and evaluated numerous grant applications.
  • awarded travel grants to young scientists wishing to present their ideas to an international audience and to learn from face-to-face communication with experts in their fields.
  • published reports from the recipients of travel grants to disseminate their ideas to the general public.
  • made three non-monetary awards for contrarian ideas within academia, for which Dr Wolff was well known.
  • made a Motivation for Science award to a local authority school engaging pupils in an innovative manner.
  • made book awards to sixth formers at Dr Wolff’s old school (Rugby School) who combined scientific endeavour with an outstanding interest in communicating ideas.

The end of an era

It has gradually become clear to the Trustees that the charity has achieved as much as is possible with the limited resources at our disposal. Further work would require considerable fund-raising and recruitment of new Trustees with the time and expertise to move the charity forward. Regretfully, we have decided that it is now time for the charity to close, and for residual funds to be transferred to other organisations working within the fields with which the SWCF has been associated.

The digital footprint of the SWCF will not be disappearing, however. The SWCF website will remain active for many years to come. Over the coming months we will be publishing information about the charities receiving residual SWCF funds. We will also be posting a final travel grant report from a young scientist going to Shanghai this summer with the assistance of the SWCF to attend the triennial World Conference on Transport Research.

In many ways this travel grant is a fitting final tribute to Dr Wolff and the truly international spirit of his research. He supported several young Chinese scientists coming to Britain in the 1980s and 1990s, and visited Shanghai himself in 1985. He would very much have appreciated the fact that the final recipient of a SWCF travel grant is a young scientist who is doing research on the interplay between public health and public transport policy, and who is very keen to communicate with experts and peers on the international stage. Science, transport and health, politics in action, communication – everything the SWCF has stood for.

Thank you for your interest and support over the last 20 years.

The Trustees of the Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation
May 2016

Results from SWCF backed research into road pollution.

A previous blog entry described important resesarch by Pallavi Pant on major, but seldom discussed, aspect of traffic pollution.
We have now added the full academic report to the entry.

The SWCF funds an air pollution researcher.

The Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation has helped PhD student at Kings College, London. Eleonora Nicolisi, whose subject is environmental pollution, attend a conference in Milan. Here is a brief report:

The Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation aided the financing of my travel and accommodation expenses to present my poster at the European Aerosol Conference (EAC) held in Milan 7th-11th September 2015.

I am a PhD student working on environmental pollution at King’s College London. Air pollution consists of a complex combination of gases and particulate matter (PM). PM is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye, others are so small they can only be imaged using an electron microscope. PM profoundly impacts human health, visibility, the ecosystem, the weather, and the climate. It is commonly divided into an organic carbon (OC) and an elemental carbon (EC) fraction.

Results of pilot study on transport pollution and health funded by the SWCF

The SWCF was delighted to be able to part-fund an air quality study in 2014 by Pallavi Pant and colleagues at Birmingham University. This continues the work started by Dr Simon Wolff in the 1990s.

Young engineer helped to attend conference by the Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation

PhD student Mohammad Afkhami attended the ESCAPE 24 conference in June 2014 with help from the Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation. Here is his report:

The Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation aided the financing of my travel and accommodation expenses to present my paper as a speaker at the 23rd European Symposium on Computer Aided Process Engineering (ESCAPE 24) held in Budapest from 15th-18th June 2014. I am currently in my final year of a PhD in the Institute of Particle Science and Engineering, School of Process, Environmental and Materials Engineering at the University of Leeds under the supervision of Dr. Ali Hassanpour and Prof. Michael Fairweather.

The demand for insulin is increasing; this is due to the increase in prevalence of type 1 diabetes and particularly type 2 diabetes. Alternative routes of insulin delivery have been tested, these include dermal, oral, buccal, nasal, rectal, vaginal and pulmonary [1-3]. The pulmonary route has proved to be the only method without major disadvantages and is the first clinically effective alternative to subcutaneous insulin. Its earlier use in type 2 diabetes can improve glycaemic control and delay the development of complications [4, 5]. If inhaled insulin is accepted more easily than subcutaneous insulin, and it may be easier to initiate insulin therapy earlier in type 2 diabetes [6]. Moreover, inhaled insulin would be an alternative to patients with needle phobia; there is some degree of needle phobia in at least 10% of the population [7].

The SWCF helps a young researcher attend a San Fransico conference

High Blood Pressure Research (HBPR) Scientific Sessions—San Francisco (September 2014)

I am a Postdoctoral Fellow working at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden. My current research projects focus on investigating the role of renal and cardiovascular functions in health and diseases.

Cardiovascular diseases are a major health problem worldwide, resulting in an enormous economic burden to the society. Hypertension is one of the most common chronic cardiovascular disorders, with a great proportion linked to renal dysfunction. The kidneys contribute profoundly to maintaining the homoeostasis of body fluid volumes and electrolytes balance, which play key roles in long-term regulation of blood pressure. Many years ago it was proposed that low nephron numbers during nephrogenesis and high salt consumption in the diet are related to subsequent development of hypertension and renal disease in the adult life. However the mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis remain unclear and further studies are urgently needed.

Biomedical Materials researcher attends conference with the help of the SWCF

Biomaterials 26th European Conference on Biomaterials—Liverpool (August 2014)

Aisling O’ Carroll obtained her BSc in Biomedical Science (1st Class Hons) from National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland (NUIM). She received a Special Research Scholarship and began her PhD studies in the School of Pharmacy, Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) in the area of medical devices in October 2013. Her research involves the development of a biomaterial with improved biocompatibility to modulate the Foreign Body Response. Upon receiving a generous Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation (SWCF) travel grant, Aisling attended ESB 2014 Annual Conference, the 26th European Conference on Biomaterials (www.esb2014.org), held from August 31st to September 3rd, 2014 in the Liverpool Echo Arena. This event was organised by the European Society of Biomaterials, and also encompassed the 11th Young Scientists Forum, aimed at postgraduate students, encouraging discussion and participation in biomaterials education and training, career development and research opportunities.

Young Econometrics PhD student attends the VIII World Conference of the Spatial Econometrics Association

Zurich—Switzerland (June 11-13, 2014)

Spatial econometrics is a well-consolidated body of methodologies for the analysis of externalities, spillover and interactions with applications in so many diverse scientific fields such as regional economics, transportation, criminology, public finance, industrial organization, political sciences, psychology, agricultural economics, health economics, demography, epidemiology, managerial economics, urban planning, education, land use, social sciences, economic development, innovation diffusion, environmental studies, history, labor, resources and energy economics, food security, real estate, marketing, and many others. The VIII World Conference of the Spatial Econometrics Association is an annual conference of the association to promote the development of theoretical tools and sound applications of the discipline. The conference offered a forum for discussing methodological advances and empirical results in all applied fields and encouraged such knowledge and good practice in academic and research institutions and in the society at large.

Young Medical Biotechnologist attends Keystone symposium on “Emerging concepts and targets in islet biology”

Dr. Ensiyeh Hajizadeh, a medical doctor and PhD student of Medical Biotechnology is currently working on the Beta-cell research program at the Royan Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Technology in Tehran, Iran. He recently attended a symposium on islet biology in Colorado.

The 11th International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant in Edinburgh

Adiari I. Vázquez-Rodríguez graduated from Harvard University with a B.S. in Engineering Sciences in 2005. After practicing Environmental Engineering and becoming a licensed Professional Engineer in 2008, she returned to the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, where she is currently completing her doctoral degree in Environmental Sciences and Engineering. Her doctoral research focuses on the environmental transport and reactivity of mercury in the environment. Thanks to a travel grant from the Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation, she was able to present her research at the 11th International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant.

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