Place of work / study:
University of Exeter
Area of Research:
Epigenetics of Lewy Body Dementia
How is your work funded?
MRC and the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust
Tell us a little about yourself:
After finishing my undergrad degree in Biochemistry at the University of Kent I worked for three years in a research lab at Eli Lilly & co, primarily looking at neuropathological characterisation of models of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. During my time there I saw a lot of the work, in particular in the field of epigenetics, which got me really interested in pursuing the field.
Out of that interest, I was able to land a PhD in the complex disease epigenetics group at the University of Exeter, under the supervision of Prof Katie Lunnon and Dr Ehsan Pishva. My project involves looking at epigenetic changes in Parkinson’s Disease Dementia and Dementia with Lewy Bodies. This involves profiling brain samples from patients with these conditions and using bioinformatic techniques to look at genome-wide changes of epigenetic state. My project also involves working with Parkinson’s patient data to test for potentially predictive variables for cognitive decline, including exploring the potential of epigenetics and genomics as disease classifiers. This is done in collaboration with the University of Maastricht
Tell us a fun fact about yourself:
I really enjoy cooking and baking, although the results can vary in quality… I made a beetroot red velvet cake that wasn’t half bad recently
Why did you choose to work in dementia?
In my opinion dementia research is a field that’s hard to not be interested in. The range of disciplines it covers and the fantastic work constantly coming out make it a very exciting field to be in, with tons of opportunities for collaboration. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have great supervisors in the past who have really fostered this interest. It’s also difficult to find someone who has not felt a personal impact from dementia and my family has previously been effected by the disease
What single piece of advice would you give to an early career researcher?
Be prepared for progress to take longer than you anticipated and really try to prioritise projects and opportunities that will let you learn. In particular for a studentship, it’s worth remembering the “student” part of that word and that you should look to gain new skills you are passionate about. Your success as a PhD is not quantified solely on your research output
What book are you reading right now? Would you recommend it?
I’ve been slowly reading Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake. If you like pop-sci and find fungus neat; I would definitely recommend!