Place of work / study:
The Francis Crick Institute, University College London
Area of Research:
Our lab researches the cellular mechanisms that underly Parkinson’s disease (PD). In particular, I’m interested in the role of lysosomal dysfunction in the pathogenesis of PD. To do this, we use skin cells from PD patients, convert these into stem cells, and then generate neurons from these in a dish. We then can then image and study the diseased neurons and compare these with control cells.
How is your work funded?
My PhD is funded by the Leonard Wolfson foundation and the Japanese pharmaceutical company, Eisai.
Tell us a little about yourself:
I am a Londoner, born and raised, so I appreciate a good art gallery and you will never see me running for the tube. When I’m not in the lab, I enjoy swimming, long walks on Hampstead Heath, and cooking/eating/talking about food.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself:
I still sleep with my teddy bear!
Why did you choose to work in dementia?
I first became interested in neuroscience after hearing the Invisibilia podcast from National Public Radio. They ran a story about a woman who was incapable of feeling fear, due to her amygdala being calcified. I was most amazed by the fact that tangible changes in our brain chemistry had the capacity to wildly alter intangible parts of our identities, like our personalities, emotions, and decisions.
During my undergraduate neuroscience degree, my Grandma’s Parkinson’s disease progressively worsened, and it felt so cruel medical way to help her. It became more upsetting to see her with each visit, and I realised that neurodegenerative disease is the healthcare issue of our generation. In addition to my intellectual curiosity of the disease, I felt it my duty as a neuroscientist to help in the feat of finding a cure.
What single piece of advice would you give to an early career researcher?
Make sure that you only choose to work in labs and with supervisors that you can have fun with, who embrace mistakes, and will value you. I believe that your choice of people to work with is more important than how interested you are in the project (although, that helps too).
What book are you reading right now? Would you recommend it?
This is Ear Hustle – a nonfiction book from the podcast of the same name. Like the podcast, it explores the lives of those incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison in California. I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far, it is so refreshing to hear the accounts of people with lived experiences, rather than the opinions of those we so often hear in the media.
Can we find you on Twitter & Instagram?
Follow @annawerns on Instagram