Ask an expert

ASK AN ‘EXPERT’ – Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research, Alzheimer’s Research UK

Specialist subject - Grant writing & Alzheimer's Research UK funding opportunities / Career change / Working in the UK as an immigrant in the Brexit era

no comments

Click here to ask your question

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research, Alzheimer’s Research UK

Taking questions on?

Grant application writing (for any funder) / Alzheimer’s Research UK grants / Career change / Working in the UK as an immigrant in the Brexit era

Can you tell us briefly about your career journey to date?

During my PhD in Italy I studied a protein involved in cytokinesis and regulating brain development.

Following my interest in studying brain function and malfunction, I then moved to study neurodegeneration in Cambridge (UK), looking at potential modifiers of huntingtin’s toxicity and other proteinopathies. I was fortunate to be in the lab that initiated the work on autophagy and its role in clearing protein aggregates.

In my transition from bench to desk I worked for the MRC selecting external reviewers for grants and this led me to a position at the University of Cambridge managing European Research Council grant funding, and then to the position of European Policy Manager.

I am now working for Alzheimer’s Research UK as Head of Research. I am combining my desire to support scientists with my need to remain involved and active in the scientific arena. Alzheimer’s Research UK is the leading dementia research charity in UK dedicated to studying causes, diagnosis, prevention, treatment and cure. Alzheimer’s Research UK is dedicated to tackling dementia through research and this is clear from the number and scale of initiatives the charity supports, including many international collaborations. The atmosphere in the charity is vibrant, characterised by a contagious level of motivation and commitment.

What has been the highlights?

I loved working in the lab, but I had a very narrowed view of the scientific world, mainly working toward creating data that could benefit the scientific community and publishing papers in high impact journals. Probably in a way that other scientists can recognise, my world became what I was studying and often I lost sight of the bigger picture. Changing career from bench to desk and especially joining Alzheimer’s Research UK has broadened my perception of the value of research enormously, helping me to realise that beyond the microscope there is a human being that will benefit from the research we fund. Recent discoveries provided insights in how the brain works and the processes associated with its dysfunction, but there is still a lot to learn. The numbers of scientists working on dementia is increasing and I am positive that Alzheimer’s Research UK will continue to play an important role in getting a better understanding of the sophisticated machinery that is the brain and in identifying life-changing dementia treatments.

Can you tell us about the main challenges?

There are quite few challenges that still need to be addressed, including the need to grow global investment in dementia research. Our understanding of the diseases that cause dementia has notably progressed in recent years, but there is still a lot to do and we can not lose momentum. We need to make sure that we live in a society where there is a better understanding of the diseases leading to dementia, that will open the door to earlier and more accurate diagnosis, effective preventions and life-changing treatments. Alzheimer’s Research UK must continue to play a leading role in funding excellent research and in bringing together different expertise to accelerate the understanding of these diseases and the delivery of life-changing treatments.

What are you hoping to achieve in 2018?

My challenge as Head of Research is to make sure that the organisation identifies and provides the appropriate platforms for scientists to thrive in their work, and facilitates groundbreaking advances that move the whole field forwards towards life-changing benefits for people with dementia and their families.

If you were to give an early career researcher one piece of advice, what would it be?

Do not think that being a good scientist means spending infinite number of hours at the bench. It is equally important to interact with other scientists, exchange ideas and network. Be confident and look for opportunities to establish collaborations, shape your own ideas and get useful insights on how to progress your scientific work and your career.

You’re being banished to a desert island and can take one item with you?

The anti-stress orange to remind me that, as outlined in the charity’s #ShareTheOrange campaign, there is always hope for a better future! 😊

Click here to ask your question