Profile – Dr Isabel Castanho, Harvard Medical School

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Dr Isabel Castanho

Dr Isabel Castanho


Dr Isabel Castanho

Job Title:

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Place of work / study:

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Harvard Medical School

Area of Research:

Genomics of Alzheimer’s disease

How is your research funded:

National Institute of Health (NIH)

Tell us a little about yourself:

I am a Research Fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Harvard Medical School, in Boston, Massachusetts (USA). In my current position I am investigating protective mechanisms to Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, with a special interest in single cell and spatial transcriptomics.

I was born in Ponta Delgada, São Miguel island (Azores, Portugal), and I moved to Exeter (United Kingdom) in 2015 to join the University of Exeter as a PhD student. In Exeter, I worked with Prof Jonathan Mill and Prof Katie Lunnon at the Complex Disease Epigenetics Group at the University of Exeter Medical School. My PhD research focused on investigating (epi)genomics of Alzheimer’s disease, using mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology.

My work used to be split between long weeks in the lab running experiments, and days spent developing scripts for complex bioinformatics analyses, but I recently put down the pipettes completely to dedicate myself to building computational biology models using bioinformatics. I was recruited by Dr Winston Hide to join his lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Harvard Medical School, as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow since January 2021.

Passionate about my work (& life), I am naturally curious and eager for knowledge. I am an advocate of open, transparent and good quality science, and I defend a rigorous but kind research culture.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself:

Although I have been struggling to find the time recently, I am a proud gamer that loves to play videogames on my own or online with friends. The group of friends whom I used to play online during my PhD had such an important role in my life during that period that I even got a tattoo to honour our time together and how much their support meant to me. We still keep in touch but adult life in addition to the time difference makes it challenging for us to play together as often as we used to.

Why did you choose to work in dementia:

Honestly, it was the result of being inspired by a sum of ’whos’ and ’whats’. The Alzheimer’s disease side of my research took an exponential growth in me in my last year of the Master’s degree (where I focused my studies in Neuroscience) in two complementary sides: the scientific enthusiasm driven by my supervisor at the time (a ’who’), and an increasing personal care developed in me as a result of coming across patient’s experiences and stories, as well as their families’ fears and concerns.

What single piece of advice would you give to an early career researcher?

Make sure to find time to rest and recharge. Your brain needs to be bored to come up with great and creative ideas. It’s a reminder that I constantly need.

What book are you reading right now? Would you recommend it?

I am currently reading “1984” which I don’t think needs me recommending it. I’m about to start “Atomic habits”, followed by “Dare to lead”, two books that I am super excited about.

Can we find you on Twitter or Instagram?

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