Place of work / study:
MRC Cognition & Brain Sciences Unit
Area of Research:
How is your work funded?
I am funded by Cambridge Trust, research by a mix of sources
Tell us a little about yourself:
Hello! My name’s Rebecca and I’m a second-year PhD student at the University of Cambridge. Though originally from ‘up North’ in a small town called Leigh, I did my undergraduate and masters at the University of Oxford before defecting/seeing the light (depends who you ask) to Cambridge for my doctorate. I now spend the majority of my days collecting data from our wonderful volunteers, and coding. I maintain that after spending entire days coding analysis pipelines I am very close to actually being able to see the matrix. In my spare time, I am a big fan of crafting in all its forms, and recently got a sewing machine to start designing my own clothes! I also greatly enjoy playing board games, and escape rooms.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself:
I was once detained on Miramar – the military base featured in the movie ‘Top Gun’! Whilst on a family road trip, our SatNav led us astray and we accidentally drove onto the base. As foreign nationals we weren’t permitted to simply drive off and so were detained for approximately half an hour. On the bright side, Top Gun is one of my mum’s favourite movies and we got some lovely yellow detainment papers as a souvenir from Miramar!
Why did you choose to work in dementia?
My Grandpa was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia when I was quite young, and even as I learned about the basics of biology in school I found that being able to explain what was going on helped me to accept what was happening. I have a vivid memory of explaining a punnet square to my Nanna when I was eleven, clarifying the genetic risk of her children developing dementia. I have seen first-hand how important information is in the fight against dementia, and I’m passionate about contributing to it. 10 years ago there wasn’t even a Wikipedia entry for frontotemporal dementia, but just last year I attended a conference with over 300 posters on the subject! It’s such an exciting time to be in the field of dementia research, and I genuinely look forward to seeing how it grows during my academic career.
What single piece of advice would you give to an early career researcher?
As an early-career researcher myself, I think the biggest piece of advice that stuck with me is “get used to existing in the problem space”. Being a researcher is a strange flip from education in that learning set answers isn’t the key any more. As scientists our job is to push out the boundaries of what people know, so I naturally spend a lot of my time… not knowing. It’s definitely true that the more you read, the less you know. If you’re confident in anything, be confident in the fact you know nothing.
What book are you reading right now? Would you recommend it?
I listen to podcasts more than read books as it’s something I can do on the go. World mythology has always fascinated me, so at the minute I’m binging ‘Let’s Talk about Myths, Baby!’ by Liv Albert. It’s a really interesting and well-researched take on the classics that I full recommend. I’m still annoyed at my boyfriend for spoiling the end of the Odyssey though.