After completing my undergraduate degree in neuroscience, I went on to study an MRes in human neurophysiology, both at the University of Leeds. After specialising in dementia conditions and neuropsychiatry in the final year of my undergraduate degree, I developed a keen interest in ageing research which drew me to the NIHR Newcastle BRC. Now working toward my PhD, I am particularly interested in Sarcopenia, frailty and dementia. I thoroughly enjoy science communication and interacting with patient populations. I therefore try to incorporate as many public engagement events as possible into my career.
My research investigates sarcopenia and frailty in individuals with prodromal dementia with Lewy bodies and Alzheimer’s disease.
September 2020, (co-writer) The feasibility of muscle mitochondrial respiratory chain phenotyping across the cognitive spectrum in Parkinson’s disease, Experimental Gerontology, Vol 138, 110997.
January – February 2021, Sarcopenia and frailty in individuals with dementia: A systematic review, Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, Vol 92, 104268.
May 2019 – NIHR BRC Science Communication Winner, NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre. Award given for presentation of PhD research in layman’s terms.
September 2019 – Alzheimer’s Research UK Newcastle Network Centre. This award was given to novel, collaborative projects in dementia research. This funding will be used for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scans and for patient transport.
July 2020 – Blog post: Can scientists improve how they diagnose dementia with Lewy bodies?
March 2021 – Blog post: Muscle maintenance: a new avenue for dementia prevention?
I have always had an interest in human biology, particularly neuroscience. When I was a teenager, I volunteered in a residential care home. The residents were affected by a variety of ageing-related conditions which had a significant impact on their quality of life. The dementia patients, in particular, were often debilitated by their conditions. Although the care provided in the home was fantastic, the healthcare professionals were only able to manage the patients’ symptoms, rather than slow down disease progression. This left me feeling as though more could be achieved in this area. With my interest in biology, I couldn’t help but think “can I do something about this?” Ever since then, research has been my passion.
I studied for my BSc in Neuroscience at the University of Leeds, followed by an MRes in Human Neurophysiology in conditioned pain modulation. I then worked as a Research Assistant at the University of Leeds to finish the work I had commenced during my time as a master’s student. Following this, I decided to work as a legal consultant while I applied for PhD programmes. It wasn’t long before I saw the wonderful opportunity to work on this project.
My PhD project aims to explore potential associations between early dementia, frailty, and age-associated changes in the muscle. It is hoped that an increased understanding in this area may help us to identify dementia in its very early stages. This could be hugely impactful as dementia is usually diagnosed later on in the disease progression, meaning clinicians are often only able to help manage the illness. We also want to improve the identification of different types of dementia, for example, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. We would like to examine whether peripheral changes may be useful in the recognition of the cause of dementia. For example, can we identify changes in muscle in dementia with Lewy bodies that differ from those seen in Alzheimer’s disease? Can we treat this loss of muscle, and in doing so, will it reduce the progression of the dementia? All these questions are important in furthering current understanding of these conditions.
I am extremely proud to be part of the NIHR. The organisation has an incredible reputation due to its fantastic staff, and the quality of work they undertake. I feel extremely fortunate to be part of that. I also receive a great deal of support. We have a lot of opportunities for training, and we are always encouraged to take up additional opportunities whilst studying toward our PhD’s.
It’s great to be connected to experts in different areas, there is always someone to go to if I require extra support or advice. My project spans two of the themes; dementia and neuromuscular diseases. I benefit from having experts and resources from both of these areas.
Early in my second year, I applied for additional funding for my research. I was successful in securing an ARUK pump-priming grant. The best advice I can offer from my personal experience is 1) make sure you really think about what it is you’re asking for, 2) tell the funders about your journey in the project so far, and 3) explain to the funders why the research is important. I think the last point is the most crucial. Why should the funder care about what are you doing, and why are you asking them for the grant rather than another funder? What value will your research bring to them?
I enjoy reading, running and walks. Having grown up in the countryside, I try to get out for some fresh air whenever I can. I have also recently taken up climbing. It’s a good job I enjoy all that exercise as my other passion is food. I love to cook, eat, bake and study cooking.
I like how compact the city centre is, we can walk everywhere yet it still has a lot going on. It has a fascinating history, a beautiful quayside, great architecture and it is wonderful to be so close to the countryside and the coast.