Podcasts

Podcast – ARUK Conference Roundup 2023, Part Two

Hosted by Dr Zara Franlin

Reading Time: 25 minutes

Last week we were in Aberdeen for the Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference 2023 to hear the latest findings in dementia research.

In the second of our two-part special we focus on sharing highlights from the main conference, which featured two days of brilliant scientific programming. Guest host Dr Zara Franklin from University of Aberdeen talks with Dr Natalie Connor-Robson from the UK Dementia Research Institute at Cardiff University, Dr Szu-Han Wang from The University of Edinburgh and Dr Steven Quinn from University of York.

For more information on ARUK and their ECR support work, take a look at the ARUK ECR Portal.


Click here to read a full transcript of this podcast

Voice Over:

Welcome to the Dementia Researcher Podcast, brought to you by the University College London and the NIHR, in association with Alzheimer’s Research UK, Alzheimer’s Society, Race Against Dementia, and the Alzheimer’s Association. Supporting early career dementia researchers across the world.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Thank you for tuning into the Dementia Researcher Podcast. I’m Dr. Zara Franklin and it’s my pleasure to be hosting this special episode recorded on location from the Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference in Aberdeen. This is the second of a two-part special bringing you all the news and highlights from the UK’s largest dementia researcher conference with over 500 researchers joining in person and online. Today, we’re going to reflect on the scientific program and talk about some of the great research that’s been presented over the past few days. Joining me to share their highlights are Dr. Natalie Connor-Robson, Dr. Szu-Han Wang, and Dr. Steven Quinn. Hello everyone.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Hello.

Dr Steven Quinn:

Hi.

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

Hello.

Dr Zara Franklin:

So, I’d like to start, so let’s go around the table and do some proper introductions. I will start with Natalie.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Okay. So, I’m Natalie Connor-Robson. I’m an ARUK Research Fellow and UK DRI emerging leader. I’m based down on Cardiff DRI. My work centers on understanding some of the endocytic risk genes and kind of looking at what they do in our cells, so we use a lot of IPSC models, make those into neurons, make those into microglia, and try and understand what these genetic changes do to the cells. So yeah, that’s me briefly.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Oh, brilliant. Thank you. And Steve?

Dr Steven Quinn:

Yeah, so I’m Steve Quinn from the University of York. I’m also an Alzheimer’s Research UK Fellow and a senior lecturer at the university and my group specializes in single molecule biophysics. So I like to think of myself as a physicist. I’m an optical engineer. I build microscopes. We detect single molecules and we’re specifically interested in detecting and understanding amyloid and really trying to understand and investigate how amyloids clusters together and why that could be important in the context of membrane damage. So, our group’s quite interdisciplinary. We use a variety of biophysics, chemistry, engineering-based approaches to really try and understand the fundamentals of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Amazing. Thank you. And Szu-Han.

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

Yes. Hi, my name is Szu-Han Wang. I’m also a ARUK Research Fellow. I’m a senior research fellow affiliate with the Center of Clinical Brain Science in University of Edinburgh and my lab is specializing in understanding the learning and memory process related to the brain mechanisms and really applying to dementia research is to understand the wealth of knowledge that we built from this dissection of the memory process, how it’s encoded, it’s consolidated, its retrieval, and its reconsolidation again that then this process, how they’re affected in aging as well as in dementia models and as well as [inaudible 00:03:29] the novel discovery of optogenetics in understanding the brain circuits affected in familial Alzheimer’s Disease models as well as how we can tag the memory cells to retrieve and reactivate, can recover the memory function.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Amazing. Thank you. They were all brilliant introductions. So just before we get into your highlights, I’d like to ask, did any of you present this week?

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

My group? Not myself.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Okay, cool. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

Yes, so I think it’s actually tagged a long theme that’s probably not such clear as an organized theme as a session but becomes spread out through different materials through the conference. For example, probably not everyone flipped through the kind of pamphlet or brochures of a conference, but there’s one page dedicated for so-called [inaudible 00:04:34] trials lab from Cambridge is about early detection. And so that’s obviously from kind of a human research perspective and for our presentations, poster presentations throughout this conference is exactly but from a preclinical point of view in the sense that the classic curve would say that by the time you see memory impairment, that’s already very late stage. That symptomatic stage while much earlier you can see other kind of biomarker change.

However was probably less recognized and it’s picking up is that there are different cognitive functions that could potentially be affected years before the severe memory impairment so we are really looking into that. They are subtle so-called kind of cognitive functions that’s actually affecting a very early stage and those is not something very apparently. You need certain behavior models or human cognitive test to reveal that subtle change and those changes can be actually as early as onset of the brain pathology that initially so be years before the symptoms. So our posters show that in two different familial [inaudible 00:06:00] models on that prospect.

Dr Zara Franklin:

That’s amazing. I think looking at kind of the earlier processes is really important in the understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease. Thank you so much for talking about that. So now let’s go to the highlights. Steve, would you like to go first?

Dr Steven Quinn:

Yeah, I mean I think overall the conference has just been a great opportunity for scientists to come together, highlight new tools and techniques, highlight emerging highlights, and hear from folks with Alzheimer’s Disease. So one of the early talks from Olive, who’s a supporter of Alzheimer’s Research UK and dementia research more generally, was really a good reminder that we’re all fighting this fight to help people with Alzheimer’s Disease, be it through treatments, diagnosis, therapies and so I thought her talk at the very start was a really powerful opener to the conference. It was a good reminder for what we’re all trying to achieve in our dementia-related research activities. And I think it’s set the scene for all of the amazing talks that subsequently followed it. It’s been a great opportunity, as I say, for scientists to come together to interact, to produce new ideas, to stimulate new collaborations, to meet other researchers working in similar areas and to generally try and push the fields forward.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Thank you. I completely agree. All of talk completely set the tone for the conference and just bringing that humanizing our research is something that we need to do quite a lot ’cause it’s something that we sometimes get lost in a signal and pathway and you forget so bringing things really back to perspective is wonderful in this conference. So, I’ll go to Natalie now if you want to talk about your highlights.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Yeah, I mean there’s lots of highlights. It’s been a really great conference. I think there’s been lots of things that I don’t necessarily think about in my own research, so I think one of the sessions that I particularly enjoyed was the dementia risk factors session, whereas there was a lot of environmental risk factors. I mean the work that I do concentrates more on the genetics, so I really enjoyed the talk by Louise Kelly from the University of Southampton. So, she was looking at the interplay between pollution and dementia and exploring that link and trying to understand how being exposed to higher levels of pollution can increase your risk of dementia, which I thought was really fascinating. So, she was talking to us about the animal models that she was using and exposing those mice to some of the diesel fumes and then being able to collect and harvest the brains afterwards and then really get into looking and seeing what was happening there.

So, I thought that was really fascinating and she was telling us about some very cool techniques where they are able to inject some dextran into the brain and then they can look at the clearance mechanisms across the blood brain barrier. So, it sounded like a really exciting, bit of work that she’d started and it sounded like they were going to be doing some more with some different mouse models, some [inaudible 00:09:22], so something that already has some Alzheimer’s pathology. So, I think it’ll be a really exciting thing to hear maybe next year when we’re back.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Yeah, hopefully. Her talk was fantastic and bringing in the risk factors, particularly the environment because it’s so important to-

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Yeah.

Dr Zara Franklin:

… everybody and it’s necessary to discuss these things at conferences as well.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Yeah.

Dr Zara Franklin:

And it’s good to see that that that’s kind of coming out and it’s becoming more explored as such.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Yeah, and I think it’s a thing other people can explore in their genetic models, it’s also combining that with some of these environmental factors as well.

Dr Steven Quinn:

I think that the reason you come to a conference is to learn new science as well.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Yeah, exactly.

Dr Steven Quinn:

And for me that was a completely novel and new piece of science that emerged in the follow up talk, which was discussing in the impact of noise and how noise pollution could be related to dementia was also for me, again as a single molecule, spectroscopist really new, really novel and I think as you say, it opens up exciting doors for-

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

It makes you think.

Dr Steven Quinn:

… more research and it makes you think and if we can evaluate those risk factors, then we can begin to think about how do we minimize them and if we can minimize them, then perhaps that has a knock-on effect in reducing the number of people who eventually become symptomatic.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Yeah, definitely. And Szu-Han, what were your highlights of the conference?

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

Right, so I think one of the highlights is really, again, it’s not like one particular… There are many sessions that contribute to this really interesting kind of a coherent theme that I’m sure Natalie will probably talk about this, and Steven will talk about this EDI session, this diversity and inclusivity session is that this gender issue in research career development, and not just that career development but also even at the basic research side, we also talk about the sex difference in preclinical studies. And then in today’s session it’s really interesting and then this came up again even with stem cell research, is sex a bias factor in that as Well?

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Yeah, that’s amazing that people still think it’s okay to do studies where they’re only using male mice. You know, there’s a lot of work to disprove that the perceived problem with having female mice in studies, but their estro cycle has kind of been disproved now, right? So yeah.

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

Yes.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

I guess time to move on.

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

Exactly. I was actually educated at that era. So yeah, I was thinking, yes, if you want a proper control without that confounding because at that time that was still as a confounding factor. So obviously that thinking has changed. And then echo that, of course I want to cite the study that Tara, Professor Tara Spires-Jones mentioned in the session that there has been an eLife paper looking at this sex… Male animals, female animals, and whether it’s genuine sex or actually it’s a deeper reason behind it, it’s the trade difference potentially that’s something to look out for as well.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Yeah, I agree. I think the inclusivity and research culture panel that was done was absolutely fantastic and I think it was really good that it was given a prime-time session within the conference as a really important topic to be thinking about, not in just terms of the science, but also we need to have a more inclusive environment. And it was great to see that being discussed, whether that’s in terms of the disparity between female PIs, but obviously it also of course people of different ethnicities and yeah, there was lots of really shocking stats that went around on that. So, I noted one down, so the UK RI, in the last five years of their awards, 71% went to men and only 27 to women so yeah, I thought that was quite stark. There was lots of other stark figures there that maybe you other guys remember too but yeah; I think it’s definitely something that still needs to be addressed.

Dr Steven Quinn:

Yeah, no, I completely agree. I mean highlighting EDI issues at a major national conference is A, really important, and B, that conversation needs to be continued. The completely agree, having the platform at primetime during the conference to discuss EDI issues is something that I haven’t ever experienced before at any conference I’ve been to and you’re absolutely right, EDI issues relate to not just the scientists but the science and it’s really important to discuss all of the issues and to come up with strategies to mitigate against them. I thought some of the interesting parts of that discussion for me were the use of networks that I hadn’t been already familiar with. And so now I’ve been exposed to those networks. I can direct our students at the University of York and far beyond to help them in their careers. So yeah, I think we need to continue the EDI conversation. It’s really important and we must all do better.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Yeah, I guess it’s important to put some solid milestones in place that we cannot just continue the talk but actually making some progress. So yeah, good to see at the conference.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Yeah, I totally agree. It was amazing. And to gain some knowledge of the platforms that are available to people. I wasn’t aware of a lot of those things and I think it’s something I’ll bring back from the conference that there are things set in place that can help people out or find a place to talk and things like that but also we need to keep moving forward with that. And that’s something I’m really, really passionate about actually.

Dr Steven Quinn:

That’s right.

Dr Zara Franklin:

So, it was great to see this at the conference.

Dr Steven Quinn:

We need to have measurable deliverables. So yes, the conversation is important but arguably the actions that arise are even more so.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Yeah. I think talking to others around the conference as well. Yeah, I think everyone was very pleased to see that that had been given a really good amount of time.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Yeah, definitely. There was so much positive feedback about that session. So, it was really great just from talking to other people around, it just seems to be, seems to have been a really, well, what’s the word? Well taken. I don’t know how to say this [inaudible 00:15:48] taking sessions. So, I’m really pleased that it happened.

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

Just tag along the same line of a discussion that I was really impressed with Tommy’s initiative with this-

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Yeah.

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

… Black woman in science.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Really fantastic.

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

Yes, it’s impressive so it’s not just top-down kind of a discussion or some policy et cetera, but you see this kind of a, how you call it? Kind of bottom up, so from the [inaudible 00:16:16] there are people actually initiate this in this platforms where they are all kinds of resources with podcast events, days where they set up to meet with data scientists, et cetera so different research tools that probably cross discipline. So then it’s really helpful to, while that gap is hopefully will be narrowed down in the coming years, but also there are these activities from bottom up to really push that.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Yeah, and really thinking about how to encourage people at kind of school level into thinking this career is for me, it’s something I can see myself doing and I can see others that look the same as me doing that. That was also discussed and I think that was really great.

Dr Steven Quinn:

Yep. Black Women in Science Network, go check it out. But I think it’s also important for folks who are not scientists but who perhaps work in a science institute to also check out that network. So, if you’re an administrator working in a science facility, if you’re a technician as well as a researcher or potential scientist, go check it out, get involved with the network because it just sounds like it’s really helping promote EDI issues throughout, not just the UK but hopefully beyond.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Definitely. Okay, so there were also a lot of sessions on microglia. Would anybody like to discuss that?

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

Yes. So, microglia has been a strong theme throughout the conference and so yesterday we heard about Professor Marco [inaudible 00:17:56] of course talk about histories of the amazing discovery in his lab and then completing in his [inaudible 00:18:03] paper and then, so that really bring us through the various kind of aspects of microglia that has been discovered in his lab. And then we also move on to Sally [inaudible 00:18:16] talk, is a friend of foe and then maybe initial stage where it’s clearances friend and later on, put out these seating elements that can be a foe. And that’s of course a really simplified summary and for me really the highlight is at the prize giving, Dr. [inaudible 00:18:35] talk, she’s from New Zealand, it’s really impressive how she can quickly moving on from knowing this very important synaptic loss as a very important biomarkers that’s really strongly correlated with the functional function loss in AD.

And then move on to understanding the role of microglial phagocytosis and complement activation now process. And then leading to how she managed to pull all the resources from UK, Europe, and North America, put together toward deeper understanding of the mechanism and of course the findings has been showing in her recent publication Science and Nature Neuroscience. I think that’s really impressive work.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Yeah, I guess just to pick up on another thing that we heard about microglia, I mean for someone like me who does the IPSC models for microglia, understanding how similar they are to the actual microglia in the brain is really important, right? So, there was a talk by Amy Lloyd who is looking at doing deep proteomics across various different microglial models, whether they were in vitro or in vivo, whether they were from human or mice and then also being able to have those in vitro ones and then implanting those into the mice and then having a look at the protium there. And I thought it was really fascinating, all the changes.

So yeah, one of the things that was really striking actually was those that were in vitro had a much bigger protein mass overall, which was quite crazy actually but also I think thinking about the profile in vitro microglia as well was much more similar to the disease associated microglia. So I don’t know if that’s something that comes with your stresses of culturing maybe but I think something to keep in mind and think about. She said that all of her proteomics data would be available soon on a website so I guess if others are interested in that, that’ll be really helpful I think and a really good resource to have.

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

And also beyond the context of Alzheimer’s Disease, also of implication of vascular dementia or actually in stroke. There is a talk currently given by Dr. Jill Fowler from Edinburgh will be looking to this microglia and stroke as well.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Would you like to go round the table again or are there any other highlights anybody would like to comment on?

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Yeah, I mean I had another talk that I really enjoyed. So, this was from this morning’s session, so from Marta del Campo who was at the University of Amsterdam, we believe. So really nice talk, really took us through how kind of the process of identifying new biomarkers, which obviously there’s a real big need for. So yeah, I thought that was a really fascinating talk. So she was discussing how they’re doing that with CSF samples and how not only just picking out Alzheimer’s Disease, but actually being able to differentiate the different types of dementia as well ’cause obviously that’s really important and especially going forward while we think of treatment strategies that will become ever more important I think.

So yeah, she was taking us through, going from the big picture mass spec type of work, then kind of focusing down on particular panels. So I think she was talking about the PRIDE Initiative, which is the Protein Identification for Discrimination of Dementias which has a whole load of different groups that they’re able to look in, kind of look between so it controls people with mild cognitive impairment but positive for amyloid beta pathology, those with Alzheimer’s Disease and those importantly with non-Alzheimer’s dementia as well. And then being able to identify some particular biomarkers for all those groups. And it sounded like it had been really successful so far. So yeah, I think some of the follow up work that they were doing with that was going to be trying to do the same in bloods, which would obviously be a lot better for the patients. I can’t imagine everyone wants to be able to give a CSF sample, I wouldn’t. People are very crazy.

Dr Steven Quinn:

Yeah, I think the field seems to be moving towards blood-based biomarkers. I think they’re emerging. I think that from what we’ve seen, there is stronger evidence that blood-based biomarkers are on the horizon. There seems to be very strong links between some blood-based biomarkers and the cerebral spinal fluids and links to pathology so I think we can be optimistic that a simple blood test and hopefully a cheap blood test is very much on the horizon. And look, if we can democratize testing, we can catch people at the earliest stages of disease. And at that point, when there’s most brain matter to save, then perhaps we’ve got an opportunity to really allow those drugs to be even more effective.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

I thought it was really interesting actually, sorry, I just looking back at my notes, some of the things that they had found as biomarkers, it’s kind of interesting that they’re getting pulled out as well because they’re things that we know already in the Alzheimer’s field. So, things like protein clearances being a problem, lipid metabolism, these are all kind of things that we look at in the lab as molecular mechanisms. So yeah, interesting to see the same sort of things are being pulled out as biomarkers, maybe not that surprising.

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

And I saw, just along the similar, I saw it’s a really well organized session where they look at biomarkers from fluid all the way to functions and started with a proteomics data you mentioned by Dr. Marta del Campo and then followed by professor, Associate Professor Michael Scholl’s talk where he nicely put these, what he thinks the current status of these different biomarker, whether it’s pTau, whether it’s PAT imaging, and how he sees these in terms of their implementability and how kind of accurate they will be. And also, he then add on to not just the biomarker, but also functional marker where [inaudible 00:24:37], they are going to launch a bigger research adding the digital technology in detecting different function change. And again, it’s echoing this initiative, early detection of new degeneration disease and I think that’s really a kind of nice session bring us through from not just biology, but also the function side as well.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Yeah, definitely. So could we go, well maybe quickly go around the table once more if anybody has any other comments or…

Dr Steven Quinn:

Well, we started off with Olive, as I say, fantastic talk. And we ended I think with a really nice single molecule spectroscopy talk by Juan Varela at the University of St. Andrews. And he highlighted some really nice approaches where he can detect single protein aggregates in solution, can track those single protein aggregates as a function of time with a time resolution that is on the millisecond time scale. And he showed, I think really elegantly, that some of those species that are formed can not only interact with biological membrane receptors, but can also damage the membrane. And I think that those tools and techniques that were presented open up opportunities for us to interrogate which of the aggregates, if any, are most toxic. And if we can identify which of the aggregates are most toxic, then perhaps we might be in a far better position to develop targeted therapeutics.

So I thought that that single molecule spectroscopy talk, and I’m a little bit biased because I’m a single molecule spectroscopist, was really quite interesting but the tools and techniques there that were presented I think are very adaptable to other proteins. So those same tools could be used to, for example, monitor tau, phosphorylated tau, neurofilament light chain and so we should start to think about how those methodologies can be adapted to quite literally, no pun intended, shed light on the biomarkers of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

Yes. And one thing I really enjoy about this conference is we really see research from all different levels because Steven, you have a poster on this single molecule [inaudible 00:27:07]. I wonder if you want to kind of add a little bit more on your discovery.

Dr Steven Quinn:

Yeah, so as I say, we do a lot of single molecule detection. We develop microscopy and optical-based systems to detect single molecules. And as part of our microscopy development, we realize that many of the tools and techniques could be used for the detection of biomarkers. So, we’re very good at mobilizing proteins to surfaces and detecting them. And we thought, well, hang on a minute, couldn’t those same tools and techniques also be used potentially to discriminate between and detect proteins in the blood? And so we started now to develop essentially grating-like structures that we call guided mode resonances in order to differentiate and detect proteins mobilizing onto those structures based on a refractive index change that they produce at the sensor surface.

So it’s preliminary data at the moment, but we’ve got an ability to detect beta amyloids, 42 proteins, immobilizing onto our surface unlabeled proteins with a concentration of about a picogram per mil, sorry, a nanogram per mil. So that’s really promising. It bodes, I think, well for the future and the downstream development of a blood test. It’s early days yet, but our single molecule spectroscopy instruments, if you like, have been adapted for hopefully downstream clinical implementation.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Amazing. Thank you. Natalie, would you like to tell us a bit about your poster because Szu’s had a talk about hers?

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Yeah, sure. So, the person that I had here is exploring, so as I said, we look at different endocytic risk genes and think about endocytic dysfunction in terms of late onset Alzheimer’s Disease. The reason for that is we know from the genetics there is a cluster of endocytic genes that are continually pulled out. We know that there are some rare coating mutations in some of those genes as well. And the other thing that we know is one of the really early pathological features of Alzheimer’s Disease, it’s not just amyloid, beta and tau, but actually we see these enlarged early endosomal structures so endocytic dysfunction does seem to be quite important for the disease. And it’s early, it happens early. So that’s really key, right? Because if you can highlight, as you were saying, something that happens early in disease, it’s a good potential therapeutic avenue. So, the work that I was looking at on the poster that I had was looking at one of these genes is called [inaudible 00:29:47].

And it is a protein that’s required to bring clathrin and AP2, which is a clathrin-adaptor protein to the membrane and then initiate the whole cycle of clathrin-mediated cytosis, so it’s a pretty key protein, but no one’s really been looking at it in terms of its functioning microglia. Microglia obviously have quite some specialized roles for endocytosis, so a really specialized role is phagocytosis, which is one of the main things they do, and being able to clear and keep the environment healthier around them. But also actually endocytosis is even quite important for things like motility, which people don’t always think of.

So yeah, so we’ve been using, we’ve developed some CRISPR lines, that are knockouts, and then we’ve been characterizing those by doing the IPSC derived microglial cultures and we can do all kinds of assays. So we can do lots of live imaging assays, lots of nice biochem assays and some immuno cytochemistry as well. And so we see all kinds of changes in the endocytic pathway in terms of the endocytic, the early endosomal size, and also in terms of being able to carry out clathrin-mediated endocytosis, not surprisingly, but also impacts on things like phagocytosis and amyloid beta clearance. So that’s really exciting. We’ve got lots more to do on that, that’s still quite early days and we’re also looking in neurons as well to see if there’s any cell type vulnerability. So yeah, so hopefully I’ll tell you more next year.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Amazing. Thank you. Szu, would you like to quickly go over your poster? I know you covered your-

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

[inaudible 00:31:20].

Dr Zara Franklin:

… general group’s poster, but I hope you covered yours as well.

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

Yes.

Dr Zara Franklin:

‘Cause it was a really, really nice overview of-

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

Absolutely.

Dr Zara Franklin:

… your work. Thank you. So just before we wrap up, as you’ve all made it to a great stage in your careers and ARUK are really keen to support ECRs and have piloted a cross network mentoring scheme and ECR training and networking opportunities among other schemes that can be found on their ECR portal. So I was just wondering if I could ask you all to share just one career tip. So, I’ll start with Szu-Han.

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

Right? Oh.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Quick firing right straight at ya.

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

Right. Find a support of network, a network of support, whether it’s mentor or from your internal institute or external institute, give you different perspective. And also, very important to understand what support you can get locally from your department or from your center that help you through a lot of, I mean research or administration hurdles and I think that would help.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

That was also going to be mine. I think it’s really important to have a good mentor. But if I was to give you another one, I think it’s always take up any opportunities that you are given to present your work or go and talk to others about your work. Really get out there and promote what you’re doing and tell people why it’s important. I think that’s also something that’s very good to do.

Dr Steven Quinn:

And don’t give up. Don’t give up. If you’re writing a fellowship application or a paper or another grant application and that paper or grant application gets rejected, don’t give up. Use reviewer comments to your advantage. Take them seriously and help… Use them to help you modify your texts, modify your grant application, modify your paper, and make it even better because the next time you submit it, it’s got an even better chance of success. So don’t give up and use, as you say, opportunities I think. Take them. And that also includes, if there’s any internal pots of money at your university, it might only be for a few hundred pounds worth of consumables, apply for it. There’s loads of opportunities to get an undergraduate summer student funded. There’s many interdisciplinary opportunities to learn new skills, loads of courses to develop your translational and your professional skills so yeah, don’t give up and go for the opportunities when they arise.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Yeah, and I think just another thing to add to that, I guess is just if you think you’ve got an idea, but you’re a bit nervous about maybe emailing or talking to someone, just go and do it because the worst that they’ll do is maybe ignore your email, which is fine, right? You can always email them again.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Yeah, that’s completely true. As an ECR, I’ve really been thrown into this conference at the deep end between public outreach, organizing, doing a podcast. I’ve never, never done this before and given a talk and being around my poster, I have met hundreds more people than I ever thought I would. And coming just as a scientist, as an ECR to this day and having a poster, it’s such a contrast. So my advice from one ECR to another would be say yes when it comes to conferences, because that is where you build your network. That’s where you meet people, that’s where you make the connections and build your confidence, get this introvert outside of you. So that’s my little snippet from me.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

I think that’s really good advice.

Dr Zara Franklin:

Thank you. Okay, so that’s all we have time for today. We’re all going to rush away and hope the weather doesn’t disrupt our trips home. I hope you’ve enjoyed listening and if you want to find out more about any of the research we’ve discussed, head over to the ARUK website and the online portal is open for another 30 days. Thank you to my fabulous guests, Dr. Natalie Connor-Robson, Dr. Szu-Han Wang, and Dr. Steven Quinn. I’m Dr. Zara Franklin, and you’ve been listening to the Dementia Researcher Podcast.

Dr Szu-Han Wang:

Thank you.

Dr Steven Quinn:

Thanks guys.

Dr Natalie Connor-Robson:

Thank you.

Voice Over:

Brought to you by dementiaresearcher.nihr.ac.uk in association with Alzheimer’s Research UK, Alzheimer’s Society, Race Against Dementia, and the Alzheimer’s Association. Bringing new research, news, career tips and support.

END


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This podcast is brought to you by University College London / UCLH NIHR Biomedical Research Centre in association with Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Research UK, Alzheimer’s Society and Race Against Dementia who we thank for their ongoing support.

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