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Jobs that make a difference: Investigative Research Assistant

Louis Laurence is a Investigative Research Assistant within the Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG). More on how his job is making a difference.

Louis sat on campus
"We are challenging multi-billion-dollar companies and their intention to sell more deadly products"

Exposing how the tobacco industry threatens public health

Louis joined the Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG) at the University of Bath as an Investigative Research Assistant in April 2020, just as the Covid-19 pandemic was closing in, to monitor and investigate corporate influence on health behaviour and policy.

Committed to combating tobacco use worldwide, Louis is a key member of the Stopping Tobacco Organisations and Products (STOP) project, a pioneering tobacco industry watchdog that works to accelerate tobacco control and expose tobacco industry tactics.

The TCRG team has a deep respect and care for each other and a fierce commitment to the vital work that we do to improve public health.

We are challenging multi-billion-dollar companies and their intention to sell more deadly products. It can feel like David and Goliath at times, but we have an innate passion, knowing that the work we are doing is important and making an impact globally.

Louis uniquely combines his expertise in academic research with his investigative journalism skills to populate the TCRG’s flagship Tobacco Tactics website, a trusted depository for evidence-based research on the tobacco industry used by public health experts, civil servants, politicians, policymakers, NGOs, and journalists.

What has been exciting is how fast paced it can be and how quickly you can feel like you are making a difference.

It remains inspiring and hugely rewarding to see the quality and impact of our research being recognised by the World Health Organisation and at national and international awards.

A microbiologist by training specialising in antibiotic development and infectious disease research, Louis is proud of the work he undertook to regularly monitor Big Tobacco’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

I knew that in a work context Covid was going to be significant. I felt incredibly grateful that I had a role to play in the pandemic discussion, and a focus during such an intense and strange time.

Examining the corporate social responsibility response to this respiratory disease was fascinating. Our ‘Covid Monitoring Database’ quickly became a hub for understanding how the tobacco industry was reacting and seeking to buy influence across the globe.

With a Masters in Plant Parasites and Genetics from the University of Sheffield, Louis has a keen interest in the connection between science and society and how scientific knowledge can be more effectively communicated to tackle global health concerns and challenge misinformation.

It’s exciting to be the voice of opposition.

Over the coming months, Louis looks forward to completing his part-time Masters in Science Communication and bringing his newly learned journalistic skills back to the team to fight corporate power by directly challenging the narrative, and confronting a range of dangerous industries in low and middle-income countries.

Louis is currently supporting Professor Roy Maconachie from the department of Social and Policy Sciences to produce a documentary to be launched at film festivals later in the year. Currently being shot with farmers in the tobacco fields in Malawi, the film will explore the history of the colonial tobacco industry and the connections between empire and slavery. Louis recently lost his dear friend and colleague, Dr Mateusz Zatoński Mattheus, a leading light in the international tobacco control community who was posthumously awarded this year’s ‘World No Tobacco Day’ Medal.

We are a family at Bath. It is a very close-knit supportive place to work and to lose one of our own is heart-breaking.

Mateusz was known, respected, and cherished not just at Bath, but across the world. We were honoured to have him as part of our team, and we continue to remember him with admiration and respect and will ensure his legacy by continuing his work.

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