Oxford - MRC Doctoral Training Partnership funded DPhil Student (4th Year)
Tell us a bit about your role
Before coming to Oxford, I graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a BSc in Biological Sciences (Honours in Molecular Genetics). Although I am associated with the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG), my DPhil is based at the MRC Harwell Institute. This allows me to carry out specialised research at the Mammalian Genetics Unit (MGU), whilst utilising the broad spectrum of professional and social opportunities that DPAG has to offer. We are given the chance to present our research and data to a variety of audiences, allowing us to gain valued feedback and suggestions for experimental direction.
Using a combination of cellular and mouse models, my project aims to characterise the function of members of the TLDc protein family, a group of proteins suggested to play a role in the neuronal cell response to oxidative stress, with a focus on Oxidation resistance 1 (Oxr1). Mutations in these proteins cause a complex range of neurological disorders (NDs) characterised by seizures, neurodegeneration and ataxia. By understanding the function of these proteins, we hope to discover novel therapeutic targets that will have implications for a range of serious NDs, such as epilepsy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?
We are working towards understanding the underlying neuropathological mechanisms of disease onset, applicable to numerous NDs with overlapping pathology. If we are able to highlight key molecular pathways, this will have a huge impact in the field of molecular neurobiology!
Can you tell us about something you've done or contributed to that you're most proud of?
I am extremely passionate about welfare and wellbeing within university establishments, particularly focusing on mental health and reducing stigma in the student community. I am really proud to be a departmental/divisional peer supporter, alongside the additional mental health support I provide within my college as a Junior Dean. I believe that strong advocacy and accessible support networks are incredibly important, especially in a high pressure university environment.
What changes would you most like to see in the medical sciences in the next 100 years?
In terms of advances in science, I would love to see precision medicine become more readily available and affordable, eventually to become a routine treatment plan in the health care system. From this, we would see more targeted and effective therapies, as well as the start of a ground-breaking shift towards a focus on prevention (of disease), rather than reaction, in medicine.
More generally within the field, we need to continue to close the gender-gap in academia and investigate potential access barriers. It is great to see Athena SWAN initiatives currently in place within our department to increase representation and work towards this change, but there is still a long road ahead.