Contributor corner: Michael Regnier

MIchael Regnier
Michael on location in India. Image: Wellcome Images/Ben Gilbert

Michael Regnier is a staff writer at Mosaic. Michael previously worked as a writer for the Medical Research Council and as a press officer for the Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research UK.

As well as a degree in natural sciences, he has a Master's in science communication, which included a brief stint helping to develop public exhibitions at CERN.

Before writing about science for a living, Michael wrote plays and he looks forward to writing more fiction and drama when he is less deprived of sleep thanks to his two young daughters.

Twitter: @mpr2020

What is your feature about?

It's about individuals responding to global changes. Most people would agree that cities are less healthy than rural places, yet millions of people around the world continue to move to urban areas – usually to find work, make a living and live a better life, despite believing that their health will suffer as a result. So I went to India to meet scientists working on a project that will track people from 29 villages, already at varying degrees of development, to see how their health is affected by changing diet, air quality, physical activity and so on. The aim is to understand exactly what it is about urban lifestyles that damages our health, and to reduce that damage and make urbanisation safer. But I also met some of the villagers, and asked them about the choices they face as their villages develop and as the call of the 'unhealthy' city becomes ever stronger.

What did you learn that you didn't expect?

It was my first visit to India, and everyone had warned me it was going to be a massive shock to my system. We were only there for a week, and it was a whirlwind trip, always on the move from Delhi to Hyderabad and back, from town to suburb to countryside, but I was surprised by how much it wasn't shocking. India struck me as a very pragmatic nation. People don't seem to get hung up on making things perfect, as long as they are good enough. In a country of over a billion people, this seems to make sense. Of course, it creates problems when one person's 'good enough' puts a lot of other people at risk, such as in the slums, but as a general rule, good enough is good enough. (The biggest surprise was probably that you can find really top-class Italian cuisine in Delhi – which says more about my preconceptions than it does about India. It was obviously no surprise at all that you can get a fantastic biryani in Hyderabad.)  Read Michael’s feature in Mosaic, publishing 30 September 2014.