Podcasts

Podcast – Meet the new Race Against Dementia ARUK Fellows

Hosted by Adam Smith

Reading Time: 29 minutes

It’s World Alzheimer’s Day – a day when we discuss the disease, work to raise awareness and call for action. Today’s podcast is a special edition to announce a very important action from Race Against Dementia (RAD) supported by Alzheimer’s Research UK, the appointment of four new Research Fellows.

In the show we talk to new Chief Executive Bridget Barker, who introduces their newly appointed Fellows. They share their research plans, what they’re most looking forward to about the programme and provide a few top tips for those applying for similar positions.

Meet the new RAD Fellows:

Dr Maura Malpetti, from University of Cambridge. Maura uses multimodal imaging techniques (multi-tracer PET and MRI) integrated with fluid markers, post-mortem validation, and prognostic modelling approaches in frontotemporal lobar degeneration.

Dr Aitana Sogorb Esteve, from the UK Dementia Research Institute at University College London. Maura is looking for fluid biomarkers of synaptic dysfunction in genetic FTD and aiming to develop a technique for measuring these synaptic markers in blood.

Dr Emily Hill, from University of Warwick. Emily uses detailed electrophysiological approaches to understand the mechanisms underlying tau pathology in neurodegeneration. This work aims to highlight new targets for the treatment of tauopathies like Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Wioleta Zelek, from Cardiff University. Wioleta is an Immunologist focussing on the complement system, its biology, roles in disease and in manipulating the system for therapy. Of particular interest is in the terminal pathway of the complement system that generates the highly pro-inflammatory molecules C5a and the membrane attack complex (MAC).

The RAD Fellowship has been discussed on the show before, it is unique in providing five years of funding, with research costs, only open to people who have completed their PhD within the past three years, and provided with a whole programme of additional support – from performance coaching, mentoring through to connections to cutting edge industries and Formula One Teams. The charity started Formula One legend Sir Jackie Steward, aims to instil Formula One attitude into scientific research, to accelerating pace discovery, and with these latest appointments they now fund 10 Fellows based in the UK, USA and Australia. In the UK the programme is supported by Alzheimer’s Research UK, and the James Dyson Foundation.

Find out more about RAD and its Fellows, and how you could provide your own support for their work:

https://www.raceagainstdementia.com/

This podcast also sits on YouTube with English Language Subtitles.


Click here to read a full transcript of this podcast

Voice Over:

Welcome to the NIHR Dementia Researcher podcast brought to you by dementiaresearcher.nihr.ac.uk in association with Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society supporting early career Dementia researchers across the world.

Adam Smith:

Hello, and thank you for tuning in to the very special edition of the Dementia Researcher Podcast special because today I’m delighted to be introducing the very latest cohort of Race Against Dementia, AIU care research fellows. I’m Adam Smith, I work for Dementia Researcher at University College, London, and it’s my pleasure to be hosting this week’s show. As one of the Dementia Researcher, organizers, I’m guilty of picking and choosing which shows I host and so when this one came up, I definitely called dibs.

Adam Smith:

Dementia research charities in the UK and elsewhere in the world were hit hard by the pandemic and that’s had a knock-on effect to early career researchers who depend on them to keep them at work and to fund their research. So, when Race Against Dementia originally announced their fellowship funding call, it came at a great time. That was back in the start of 2021.

Adam Smith:

We were pleased to be able to work with them, then sharing news of the call. So, when it came around now to be able to announce the fellows, I jumped at the opportunity because it’s fantastic to be able to see this process through. Our regular listeners and visitors to our website will be familiar with Race Against Dementia. But before we introduce you to the researchers, let’s first of meet Race Against Dementia, new Chief Executive, Bridget Barker.

Bridget Barker:

Hello.

Adam Smith:

Would you like to maybe introduce yourself first for our listeners and remind them what Race Against Dementia is if they’re a new to listening?

Bridget Barker:

Yes. Thanks Adam. Ah, I am a lawyer by training. I’ve worked in the city for a long time, but I’ve also worked with a number of charities. And so, when Penny Moyle decided that she was going to retire from being Chief Executive Officer of Race Against Dementia, I was delighted to be asked by Sir Jackie to step up and take over.

Bridget Barker:

And I’ve learned an awful lot in a very short space of time. Finding out about the science and what is happening in the world of Dementia is really fascinating. I went to Edinburgh last week to meet Professor Siddhartha Chandran, and to also meet Claire, Durrant, who’s one of the other RAD fellows. So, I’m getting up to speed, I hope with the science, although having only done an O level in biology in 1974, there’s a long way to go, but on, on.

Adam Smith:

That’s all right. I don’t think that matters. Did they subject you to the usual? Did you have to sit there during a brain dissection and things like that? That’s usually the go-to move for lab-based researchers.

Bridget Barker:

No, I didn’t, but I was very lucky, but I got to see an incredible robot that can test drugs and the whole thing cost half a million pounds, and the robot just selects these plates of 300 little samples of stem cells, and then it can apply different drugs to it. So, that was fascinating and I’m sure that’s going to produce some interesting results going on.

Adam Smith:

It sounds like a bargain as well, that doesn’t sound like a lot of money for a fancy bit kit.

Bridget Barker:

Well, it’s an incredible bit of kit, but you also asked about Race Against Dementia, the charity. This was founded by Jackie Stewart, who is a three-times world racing champion, when very sadly his wife Helen was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. And he was horrified to learn that there was no cure and really no way to prevent dementia at the moment. And as over 50 million people in the world have dementia, and one in three people who are born today are likely to die with it. That’s a pretty horrifying prospect. And many of us will have had relatives who’ve been touched by dementia and we know how difficult it is to cope with people with dementia. It is a devastating effect and I think it’s fair to say or many families.

Bridget Barker:

So, Sir Jackie’s very keen to do something to help. And that’s why he created Race Against Dementia and why he’s given lots of money and has asked lots of people to also give money to support researchers, young researchers who can have a different approach. He’s very influenced by what has happened in Formula 1. He wants to look at it in a different light, problem-solving, thinking about how things could affect research, not going down the same old alleyways that people have done before. So, it’s all very exciting and something that I’m very enthusiastic about.

Adam Smith:

Thank you very much. And so, I mean, we should just cut to the chase really aren’t we, because we’re sat here in a room well, we’re not, we’re in a virtual room with four eager new research fellows. Would you like to introduce your new Race Against Dementia 2021 cohort?

Bridget Barker:

I certainly would. We’re delighted to have four girls who have come from various different universities. There was a big competition to get these fellowships. We had 25 people were interviewed for the first round five people in the second round. And although we thought we had funding for three, we managed to find funding for four, which is great. And so those four are with us today. So the first is Aitana Sogorb Esteve, from University College, London, Dr. Emily Hill from University of Warwick, Dr. Maura Malpetti from University of Cambridge and Dr. Wioleta Zelek from Cardiff university.

Adam Smith:

Well, I feel like we should have some kind of sound over now that does like a cheer or something like that. Hello. Hello to all of you. Hi.

Dr Aitana Sogorb Esteve:

Hello.

Dr Emily Hill:

Hello.

Dr Maura Malpetti:

Hello.

Dr Zelek Wioleta:

Hello.

Adam Smith:

So, this is so exciting. Fantastic. I mean, and also great news coast to coast, September is World Alzheimer’s Month as well. So, we’re going in so, it’s a great month to add exciting news as well. And of course, just coming out of what feels like it’s been a really tricky last 18 months for charities to be able to fund four of you as well. I’m guessing nobody really wants to know who was the fourth. Actually no, maybe you do because you’re the one that they felt so extra about, they had to get you in.

Adam Smith:

This is really brilliant, so let’s go around. Now, what we’re going to do is for everybody who’s listening, we’re going to go around and meet each of the people that Bridget’s just introduced. We’re going to hear more about them and their work. And, then we’ll ask them a little bit more as we move on about what advice they have for anybody who might be applying for a fellowship right now, or hopefully future Race Against Dementia fellowships. So, first of all, Aitana, can I maybe come to you? Hello? Congratulations.

Dr Aitana Sogorb Esteve:

Hi. Hello everyone. Thank you very much for that. And thank you Bridget for the very nice introduction. So, while I done Alzheimer study and I’m a post-doctoral researcher at the University College London, as the Bridget just said. And I’m currently based with the Dementia Research Center and the Dementia Research Institute, also at the Institute of Neurology at UCL. While I have a background in Biology and Neuroscience, and I have been working all my career in fluid biomarkers, firstly, in Alzheimer disease during my Ph.D. on the first part of my post-doctoral stage. And since last year I started working in fluid biomarkers in frontotemporal dementia, more specifically in genetic frontotemporal dementia, because I’m part now of the fluid biomarker team of the genetic FTD initiative or GenFi

Adam Smith:

Fantastic. Oh, does that mean, do you know Amanda Heslegrave as well then?

Dr Aitana Sogorb Esteve:

Yeah, of course.

Adam Smith:

Amanda was on the podcast just a couple of weeks ago talking about the application of fluid biomarkers and when, how we might use them in diagnosis and what that might mean.

Dr Aitana Sogorb Esteve:

I work in the same laboratory of Amanda because we are collaborators of pending certain work.

Adam Smith:

Okay. Congratulations. And it’s great to have somebody from UCL and not that I’m biased at all, but of course we work at UCL as well. Tell us what are your plans for your fellowship?

Dr Aitana Sogorb Esteve:

Yeah, indeed. This is an amazing opportunity. I think I can’t still believe I am part of this fellowship and I will be able to work together to all the other fellows and or Race Against Dementia team. It’s amazing opportunity, so while, as you said, I’m still working in fluid biomarkers and the focus of my project is the synaptic dysfunction. So, I will be looking for fluid biomarkers to assess in synaptic dysfunction in frontotemporal dementia. And my project will focus on finding a way by developing a technique to measure this synaptic markers in blood samples. And these methods will be to develop a technique to extract neuronal- derived extracellular vesicles in blood samples. And the reason why we want to do that is because blood is a fluid which is easier to struct than spinal fluid. And the method of extraction is less invasive for all our participants. And also the costs are less expensive than using cerebral spinal fluid. So, in that way, I will find a method to measure or assess synaptic dysfunction in a more affordable manner done using cerebral spinal fluid.

Adam Smith:

That’s really exciting. And I know from the podcast recorded a few weeks ago, for anybody who’s listening to that, the progression of technology has made a big difference. Doesn’t it? In this, this field and the accuracy of the kit and things like that, that you use. Does that make a UCL a good place to do the work where you are? Is that, would you say, is this a good place to be?

Dr Aitana Sogorb Esteve:

Yeah. Well, I think that now will be the better place to develop a project lead mine because now with Professor Hendrik Zetterberg at the UK Dementia research Institute, they are creating this biomarker factory. So, we have the state-of-the-art equipment to make you fluid biomarkers, both in CSF and spinal fluid. And I’m in a really good environment because I have in my group, we have the clinical point of view of frontotemporal dementia, but also I’m bringing to my laboratory a little, so I’m learning from Professor Hendrik Zetterberg group, the more basic science part of it. So it’s a very good synergic project.

Adam Smith:

And the Henrik’s awesome. Isn’t he, he’s a real rock star, anybody who’s, I’m sure most of our listeners will have seen him speak before. If not, he did a podcast with us as well last year as part of our relive series and talked a lot about his work and biomarkers is just so exciting because there’s so it’s moving so quickly, which is why I can see this would have appealed to Race Against Dementia, where that kind of fast-paced benefiting from innovation quickly adapting. I could see that this absolutely aligns to their ethos as well. How did it feel when you got the news? Where were you when you got the call?

Dr Aitana Sogorb Esteve:

Oh yeah, it felt I can’t explain it. It felt really good and well, I think it has been a very challenging year and a half for everyone. And I have to say mostly for me has been quite hard because I live far away from my family and my loved ones. So, I haven’t got the chance to see them so often as I used to have before the pandemic. So, when I received the call, I managed to visit my family and be with my parents. So, I was with them. So it was very emotional and it was a very happy moment to be able to share with them. Then I was able to celebrate with my parents. So yeah, it was great, a pretty start of my holidays, I have to say.

Adam Smith:

That’s perfect timing and I love, particularly, I think parents who… I think very few people in your situation have parents as well, that really understand what it all means because they don’t have background. I don’t know about your parents, my parents didn’t have a background in science or anything like that. And so they, I mean, they get that you’re happy and its great news, but they also as well. So you honestly, it’s congratulations. It’s so great. Okay. So let’s move on to our next award, a winner. The next Race Against Dementia fellow is Emily Hill. Hi, Emily and congratulations as well.

Dr Emily Hill:

Hi Adam, nice to meet you. Thank you very much.

Adam Smith:

So, could I ask you to introduce yourself?

Dr Emily Hill:

Of course, you can. So my name’s Emily Hill, I’m based at the University of Warwick. So, I finished my Ph.D. back in April on your neuro-degeneration. And since then I’ve been working on a small project funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK, and I’m really excited to start my Race Against Dementia fellowship in a couple of months, and particularly to also get stuck into the career development program as

Adam Smith:

Well, tell us about your research, tell us about your plans.

Dr Emily Hill:

Well, thank you very much. So, my work focuses on the really early changes that happen to the functions of neurons in the brain. So, we know that the communication between your arms is affected early in disease. And often this happens many years before patients clinical symptoms arise, but what we don’t know what the mechanisms are that underlie these changes. And one of the key proteins that’s involved is called Tau. And we know that Tau forms these clumps inside the neurons and affects the way that they can communicate with one another. And so, my work focuses on using a highly specialized technique, which allows us to record from single neurons in the brain at a time, and to work out what the mechanisms of how Tau is changing the communication are. And so, the hope for the work is we’ll be able to highlight new targets that we don’t know yet of how Tau’s acting early. And then we can use this to progress through to new treatments for dementia.

Dr Emily Hill:

And then in the second part of my project, the aim is to use the same assay, but to look at clinical cerebral spinal fluid samples. That’s why I’ve also got a collaboration with Henrik Zetterberg out in Gothenburg to use these samples from outside this disease patients and to look at different stages of the disease, and to see if we can correlate the effects on neuronal function. So, say if we, if we’ve got patients with certain different elements inside the CSF, but what effect does that have on the neurons and can be used this is a really early biomarker, but functionally? So, it’s something we’re really, really excited about because that’s not been done before.

Adam Smith:

And again, you can see why your projects would have been chosen again, something else that’s quite unique. And I think that’s definitely something that comes through and brilliant as well to be at that cutting edge. When that’s something that has come up in podcasts and in our blogs before about dementia being one of the most exciting places to work right now, because there’s still so much to learn and it’s easier than in this field than others to really carve out your niche and to find your space where you can make great discoveries.

Adam Smith:

So, that’s really exciting and Henrik’s name came up again. I’m going to start thinking Henrik may have a relationship with RAD. If anybody else mentioned Henry today, I’m going to start to wonder what’s going on here. It’s brilliant. And is that first project you mentioned there is that on human tissue or is that with stem cell models or?

Dr Emily Hill:

So that’s done in mice that one. And then obviously the CSF is then from humans in the second part of the study.

Adam Smith:

I know we’ve talked about this before, but it’s just to say, I’m going to ask the question anyway. See, I’m assuming you have or haven’t had a chance to meet Sir Jackie yet?

Dr Emily Hill:

So, I haven’t had the opportunity to meet Sir Jackie yet, however, he and I will be appearing on Good Morning Britain on the 21st of September, that’s to announce the appointment of our new cohort fellows. And I’m very much looking forward to meeting Sir Jackie and hearing more about his family and his drive to beat dementia.

Adam Smith:

So, for anybody listening to this, this podcast will be released on the 21st of September at 7:00 AM. So, go turn on your TV. Now switch over to Good Morning Britain. Is that the one that had Piers Morgan on it?

Bridget Barker:

Yes.

Adam Smith:

It is? So, you can listen, you can watch now that he’s not on anymore. So that’s, okay. So, go turn on the TV. If you’re in the UK, if you’re not on, you can go online, go to Good Morning Britain and you’ll get to see Emily and Sir Jackie and the other fellows talking about this brilliant work. And of course that means today is, World Alzheimer’s Day, which means I can also get a plug because later this afternoon, Penny Moyle, who’s looking after the, I think, if she continues to look after your mentoring needs. So, Penny Moyle is going to be doing a talk for us this afternoon with the other coaching people for our ISTAART PIA early career researcher group, talking about the importance of mentoring and how connections to sports can be really useful as well with [inaudible 00:17:42] so, that talk is sometime this afternoon, it’s probably not too late to register.

Adam Smith:

So if you go to our website, dementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk, click on the events list, you’ll find that there. And I’m sure Penny will be talking about some of our experiences as a time working with you guys at Race Against Dementia. Congratulations again, Emily, this is brilliant news and everybody go turn on Good Morning Britain right now and watch the show. Let’s come on to Maura next. Maura’s having connection issues, but hopefully we won’t have any difficulties. Can I ask you to introduce yourself?

Dr Maura Malpetti:

Hi Adam, thanks for hosting us and organizing these a podcast and thank you, Bridget for the introduction of the fellowship and us. I’m Maura Malpetti I’m a post-doc researcher at the University of Cambridge and the Cambridge centre for frontotemporal dementia and related disorders. My research volume just started in Italy with my Bachelor degree in Psychology and the Master in Cognitive Neuroscience, which then brought me to the University of Cambridge. And here I recently finished my Ph.D. in Clinical Neurosciences investigating in vivo pathology markers in tauopathies. And now I’m so excited to start this new chapter, joining the Race Against Dementia team.

Adam Smith:

That’s brilliant. And I have to say, this is the, I think the first time you’ve been on the podcast, I know certainly Aitana and others have joined us before, but I followed you on Twitter for ages. I’ve always been fascinated because you’ve done some fantastic talks already. So, I’m really interested to know what your research project is going to be about.

Dr Maura Malpetti:

I’m so grateful to Race Against Dementia for giving me the opportunity to develop my own ideas and project in the next five years. And for my fellowship, I will be focusing on a group of conditions called frontotemporal lobar degeneration, which includes frontotemporal dementia that I mentioned, but also related disorders, such as progressive supranuclear palsy. And in this spectrum, there are still not effective treatments, but growing evidence have shown how these conditions are characterized by multiple players in particular junk proteins accumulation, cell death and your inflammation. And for my fellowship, I will be focusing on the latter aiming to clarify the role of inflammation in the disease and clinical progression of frontotemporal lobar degeneration. And I will also aim to identify useful prognostic tools to measure and predict future changes. And these can be particularly informative for clinical trials, but also early detection. For my project I will be employing the multimodal approach using a brain scan called positron emission tomography and relating these to blood markers, which is a more scalable marker for inflammation and post-mortem validation from volunteers that donated their brain.

Adam Smith:

That’s really fascinating. And so tell me, I saw it on the news the other week that the research from Cambridge that was being done by Dr. Tim Rittman on imaging and use of artificial intelligence. Are you involved in that work as well? Is that something you’ve been had anything to do with?

Dr Maura Malpetti:

So Tim Rittman works in the same lab as I’m working now and then will work for my fellowship, I’m not directly involved in that specific project, but as team I’m part of the DEMON network that is a bigger network here in the UK. And now also appear with the trying to apply Machine Learning and AI that data for dementia research. So yeah, like we are starting recently an inflammation interest group as well.

Adam Smith:

I think we’ve talked about that as well. We’ve had the DEMON network we’ve talked about before on the podcast and we’ve got some blogs on that as well with David Llewellyn. So, go and have a look at those, if you want more information on DEMON. So Maura, can I also ask what attracted you to this fellowship?

Dr Maura Malpetti:

What I particularly appreciated of the scheme was the vision of Race Against Dementia of accelerating the dementia research and particular investing on early career researchers. This is fantastic fellowship because it allows us to focus on our work for five years, giving us stability and independence. And it’s not just a fellowship that covers the budget the project itself, but also our personal development as a potentially future leaders in this field. And I really appreciated the idea of being part of a team that will be trained and mentored at the interface between the motor sports, dementia researchers, academia, and industry. And another very positive aspect of the fellowship is that it encourages to build up your own network and build up collaborations that are not just in your institution, but internationally.

Adam Smith:

Thank you very much, Maura. And last but not least, we of course come to Wioleta Zelek. Hi Wioleta, oh, sorry. I’ve failed to announce anybody’s titles. Dr. Wioleta Zelek of course.

Dr Zelek Wioleta:

Thank you Adam. I’m Wioleta Zelek in work in Cardiff University as research associate I originally trained in chemistry and after a few years in pharma, returned to academia and undertook Ph.D. in Immunology focused on the complement system. I keep protected from infection, but also a potent driver of inflammation in many diseases. Over the last few years, I have develop a toolbox of novel complement inhibitors, including patent protected drugs candidates, and other tool reagents, enabling the study of complement in animal disease models.

Adam Smith:

So why don’t you tell us about your project?

Dr Zelek Wioleta:

My project is on development of novel anti-complement drugs that can cross into the brain. And I will do this by modifying my existing antibodies, but we’ll expand this by designing a small molecule brain penetrant, anti-compliment drugs guided by understanding of how the antibodies inhibit. I will focus on the final product of the complement system protein complex called MAC, because it is the major driver of inflammation. And because inhibiting MAC is the least risk of side-effects, the candidate treatments are limited the best on the mask the symptoms, rather than curing the disease. There is a need for better ways of treating AD to stop the disease progression. And my approach is to target factors that drive inflammation. It is not done inflammation is present in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease. Patients, inflammation in the brain causes irritation and swelling of brain tissue or blood vessels. And thus, likely plays an important role in AD, whether this is a primary cause of the disease or a response to the brain cell damage is unknown. And I hope my work will help to answer this question.

Adam Smith:

Tell me what made you apply for this fellowship?

Dr Zelek Wioleta:

This is a great opportunity for me because it’s the five-years project. And it enables me to, to gather a significant research portfolio and publish impactful findings. And also it’s very attractive fellowship because of the training that’s offered. I know it’s a great leadership training in build with this fellowship, which I’d like to take advantage of. I want to use my philosophy of that of the principles of teamwork, and I can’t wait to use them in my research.

Adam Smith:

Brilliant. Thank you very much. Bridget, you must be so excited. What a great time to start as Chief Executive, just as you appoint these fellows with such exciting projects as well. I mean, Wioleta touched on that then, but one of the things I’ve always loved about the RAD fellowships, this is how you continue to work with the fellows and support them beyond them. This isn’t just another funding source that you really build and support people through it. Can you tell us what you have in store for the fellows? Maybe some of the other funders will be listening and will be inspired to model themselves after you.

Bridget Barker:

Yes. Well, as you say, it is really exciting. I’m delighted that they’re all coming onboard RAD’s philosophy is very much, as I said before, based on Sir Jackie’s idea of formula 1, which is all about teamwork. So we are trying to make these members of our team and we want the team to drive together and to find prevention or a cure for dementia.

Bridget Barker:

So, hopefully we will give them lots of support and they will also support each other. But certainly apart from money, we are investing in giving them presentation skills. We talk to them about well-being and applied technology and problem-solving. If you look at what’s happened in McLaren and Red Bull racing, they’ve had to solve a lot of problems in a very short space of time. And Mr. Jackie was always very instrumental in trying to make motor-racing, a safer sport and to prevent accidents. And that was all achieved through teamwork. So that’s, the idea of driving what’s happening with RAD fellows. And we hope that by doing that, they will be stronger together than they are as individual researchers and that they will be able to make some fantastic discoveries.

Adam Smith:

So that means you all, not only do you kind of get to be within that lab space where you all work and have that immediate team around you and the institutions that you work in support, but then to be a part of that, I guess, part of the Alzheimer’s Research UK network as well, of course, they have branches across the country and then be a part of the RAD scheme as well.

Bridget Barker:

It’s really important to help people and support them. Because I think as we all know, just doing something on your own can be very difficult. So, if you’ve got other people to turn to, if you’ve got a mentor, if you’ve got other people who might be facing a similar problem, sharing those thoughts can be very helpful indeed.

Adam Smith:

Absolutely. And so with that in mind, can I ask open question to anybody who wants to answer, but what advice would you all have? You’ve all successfully navigated this process that’s now lasted, is that going on about five months through from applying to now? First of all, let’s maybe if we break this down a little bit. When you start to looking for a fellowship, what advice would you have for anybody that’s looking for a fellowship, how to decide which to apply for? Emily’s nodding, so I’m going to come to you first for an answer for that one. Emily,

Dr Emily Hill:

I think it’s always good to have your idea sorted and planned out because you need your idea first and then, and then you can look at what different charities and schemes it could best fit. My advice would be start really early. I think I definitely didn’t appreciate quite how long and how much information has to go into an application form, like 40, 50, 60 pages for a fellowship application, with all of the different things that you have to include. So, it’s not something you can start two weeks before the deadline. It, then you’ve really got to think about in advance and contact people and get all your collaborations and stuff together and then start writing. And it would go through so many iterations before you get it in. So, starting it early, I think it would be my best advice for people who are looking to apply.

Adam Smith:

That sounds like great advice. I mean, who do you turn to, I mean, was your supervisor from your current role, I guess, or previous role were they particularly helpful? Was it colleagues you asked to look at things where did you turn to for that help?

Dr Emily Hill:

So, yeah. My current Ph.D. supervisor has been great. Throughout my Ph.D., I’ve got experience with grant-writing and paper-writing all of these skills that then fed into writing this fellowship, but also with different people that I’ve been collaborating with. It’s always good to get views of people outside of directly the field because part of the application is to write Lisa Marie’s and all kinds of bit to be able to describe to different people what the research is to make them think it’s just as important as the people within the field. And those are really important skills in themselves. So, getting into a wide range of different people and even asking your parents to read you Lisa Marie, people who aren’t scientists, and if you can convince them that it’s worth it, then, then you on the right lines.

Adam Smith:

I completely agree. And of course Alzheimer’s Research UK is one of the organization that said, just agree to adopt the resumes for researchers from the Royal institutes, a new guidance, which does start to move emphasis away just from publications. But of course, onto your outreach work, your mentoring, you do for other students teaching and starts to give you credit for some of those things. I know Yvonne Couch wrote a very great blog about this a few weeks ago about the pitfalls and the advantages, but I can see how that, that would be helpful as well. Thank you very much, Emily. And then, so I think we’ve got, you’ve found your fellowship. You’ve written your application, then we… What’s next is I guess, the interviews was that particularly… How many people were in the room Aitana, was this nerve-wracking?

Dr Aitana Sogorb Esteve:

Yeah, I think we were five with Bridget. Yeah, for me it was, I think it was the first, the second interview panel, the interview I did for an application. So, I was very nervous to be honest, but a good thing is that I have been preparing for the interview quite a lot of time before, as well as Emily said, prepare very like in advance, a long time in advance. And also I have practice with a lot of different people as well, colleagues from my laboratory, my supervisor, Dr. Jonathan Roar. And also, I managed to practice the interview as well with Professor Hendrik Zetterberg so, I think my advice would be to get as much feedback as you can. And even to, we were asked to prepare a five minutes presentation. So, I think I did that presentation to all my friends, to my clients, to all my colleagues. So yeah, a lot of practice I will say.

Adam Smith:

That’s great. Thank you very much. And then of course now, I guess, then you move on to the contracting and the details and everything else. This is been really helpful and I’m sure others out there that are listening would love to get your thoughts. So, if any of you wanted to write a blog or share anything on the process with us, I’m sure that will be helpful to everybody listening. So, Bridget, of course, before we move on and wrap up, I mean, Alzheimer’s Research UK obviously play an important role in this. Could you tell us how you’ve worked with them through this last five month period?

Bridget Barker:

Yes. I mean, they have been absolutely fantastic because we are only a fairly new and small charity and of course they have access to fantastic scientists who are able to assist in the process, looking at the applications, helping us assess the fellows and making sure that we get absolutely the best people for these fellowships.

Adam Smith:

Is there anything else going on in Race Against Dementia that we should, we’d like to know about? I know you’ve had another funding call recently. I don’t know if the deadlines probably pass for that now, but what else is going on at RAD?

Bridget Barker:

Well, we’re always fundraising, obviously. I mean, we’ve had some tremendously generous donations from some very good donors, but I’m always very touched when we get 500 pounds from a coffee morning or a thousand pounds from some motor sport enthusiasts. I think what we’re trying to do is to raise more awareness about what RAD is doing and just make sure that people understand how important it is to fund research, and to make sure that we can get more and more fellows and make sure that they join our team in order to find a cure for dementia.

Adam Smith:

Absolutely. And you know, in your pack because I know you send out the white coats with the Race Against Dementia branches on them and things. So, when you sent Emily and Aitana and Wioleta and Maura their white coats, did you include a vest that they have to run a marathon in? Is that one of the requirements though, they have to do?

Bridget Barker:

No, no it’s not. But we hope that they will all come to various motor racing events. I know Maura is coming to the Goodwood Revival and next year RAD is the charity of the year for Goodwood Festival Sports. So, that will be a big event and we hope to raise lots of money there, but we don’t force people to do sport, but it’s obviously looked upon very favorably.

Adam Smith:

I should ask of course, are you all formula 1 fans as well? Did you all go Googling and watching some historic racing films from Sir Jackie’s glory days and things beforehand, everybody’s nodding their heads?

Dr Maura Malpetti:

Yeah, I’m from Italy, so I grew up with Ferrari, Formula 1 and Schumacher in my childhood, so I am big fan since when I was kid.

Adam Smith:

So, this is fantastic as well. You’ll be the first, every time Bridget emails and says, would anybody like to come along and do a little science talk at the British Grand Prix or at Thruxton or some motor racing event, you’ll be the first one to volunteer every time.

Dr Maura Malpetti:

Absolutely. Also for karting-racing I’m at bit-

Adam Smith:

Looking forward to the tour of Red Bull, if that happens again this year. So, I think that’s all we’ve got time for today. So, the big takeaway from today is of course that it’s World Alzheimer’s Day today, go turn on GMB now to see Race Against Dementia’s four new fellows in-person talking there with Sir Jackie. And of course this is brilliant news, not only for Race Against Dementia, but also for Dementia Research as a whole, that clearly are going to get the benefit of four very clever scientists who are going to be doing some fantastic new research in over the next five years. So, congratulations to all of you.

Adam Smith:

Thank you, Bridget, as well for taking time to join us today. And for the work you do to generate the funds that fund these people. And of course, the Alzheimer’s Research UK who administered the process. And if any of you have time, it will be great to have you come back maybe in six, 12 months’ time. So you can tell us, update us, let us know how you’re getting on and how things have moved forward.

Adam Smith:

So, thank you very much again, to all of our guests, Dr. Aitana Sogorb, Dr. Maura Malpetti, Dr. Wioleta Zelek, and Dr. Emily Hill and Bridgette Barker. We’d also like to thank, as I mentioned before, Alzheimer’s Research UK who obviously, play a very important role as a partner with Race Against Dementia. And of course, with those at Dementia Researcher as well, we have profiles on all of today’s panellists on our website, including details of their Twitter accounts. So, please do go take a look, there will also be a link to Race Against Dementia’s website and their fundraising activities as well.

Adam Smith:

If anybody is inspired to go do something, or run a coffee morning or do something that will help fund the 2022 Race Against Dementia fellows, or you can also go to their websites, which is a RaceAgainstDementia.com and Alzheimersresearchuk.org. Finally, please remember to like, subscribe our podcast in whichever app you’re listening in and remember to subscribe to our weekly bulletin as well via our website at dementiaresearcher.nihr.ac.uk, and all those details we’ve discussed today are in the text below. Thank you very much.

Voice Over:

Brought to you by dementiaresearcher.nihr.ac.uk in association with Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society supporting early career dementia, such as across the world.

END


DEMENTIA RESEARCHER PODCAST - Bi-weekly wherever you get your podcasts

Like what you hear? Please review, like, and share our podcast – and don’t forget to subscribe to ensure you never miss an episode.

If you would like to share your own experiences or discuss your research in a blog or on a podcast, drop us a line to adam.smith@nihr.ac.uk or find us on twitter @dem_researcher

You can find our podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud and Spotify (and most podcast apps) – our narrated blogs are now also available as a podcast.

This podcast is brought to you in association with Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society, who we thank for their ongoing support.

Leave a Reply

Translate »