She has developed an online teaching module as part of a 2-week STEM summer online placement for young people from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds in order to give them access to invaluable STEM skills and career guidance.
Concentrating primarily on Parkinson's, the module teaches students how important it is to understand the molecular changes that happen in the brain in neurodegeneration, as doing so will ultimately help scientists to design drugs that halt the progression or cure these diseases. Students are taught to consider what happens in the brain during Parkinson's and how a patient would be diagnosed. They also look at what the genetics of Parkinson's tells us about how it effects neurons in the brain and concentrate on the role of the autophagy pathway – the cells waste clearance system.
Dr Connor-Robson began by delivering the main lecture on neurodegeneration, which was followed by a Q&A session where students learned how she chose her course at university, her experience of research and how she ended up working at Oxford. She then developed some tasks for the students to work on based on real experimental data from the lab before providing another feedback lecture on the tasks. Dr Connor-Robson said: "We went through how I did the experiments to get the data I provided them with and they now get this week to be a biochemist and a neuropathologist and analyse the data!"
"The idea is for the students to experience what a career in STEM can look like and to give them a more in depth look at a particular subject area. The students also receive training for example CVs and personal statement workshops. The idea is to encourage people from all backgrounds into STEM careers."
Read more: "Natalie Connor-Robson talks team effort, diversity and neurodegenerative Diseases" (In2scienceUK website).
The Department has hosted students via the programme in the past, providing an opportunity not only for students to gain insight into our work but also for departmental staff to engage with the wider community. See "DPAG Researchers collaborate with In2scienceUK" for more information.