An unconventional route to Professorship – meet Prof Tammaryn Lashley
Written by Prof Tammaryn Lashley, UCL Regional Network Lead
It has been a huge privilege to be promoted to Professor after being at University College London (UCL) for 20 years.
The route I have taken to this promotion has not been the most conventional.
It started with me studying Biochemistry at Swansea University. I didn’t get the best grade for my undergraduate degree, which meant any PhD applications were not competitive. I was successful in obtaining a research technician position at the National Institute of Medical Research working on spinal cord regeneration in Professor Geoffrey Raisman’s group. This meant I could gain valuable laboratory experience, which gave me transferrable lab skills and I moved to the Institute of Neurology continuing as a histology technician for Professor Tamas Revesz. It was whilst working at Queen Square that I was given the opportunity to undertake a PhD investigating two rare hereditary dementia’s and having worked in a lab for four years I had the skills in the lab to hit the ground running.
I also didn’t take the most conventional route whilst undertaking my PhD…
This photo is of me pipetting, from when I was in New York running experiments for my PhD, I was actually pregnant here with my eldest daughter!
My PhD was part-time as I undertook the histology for the post-mortem brains donated to Queen Square Brain Bank and I also had my first two children. I also spent a proportion of my PhD at New York University to learn biochemical techniques in analysing amyloids for Professor Blas Frangione and Professor Jorge Ghiso. Life was busy and I needed to learn to be as organised as possible, I could only work 9 to 5 and couldn’t work in the lab at weekends, because of the children and balancing my husband’s newly launched architectural business. My studies were planned as much as humanly possible, whilst at work I maximised lab work and read and wrote my thesis whilst at home and the kids were in bed!
Through various project grants supported by Professor Revesz I was able to remain at Queen Square Brain Bank, gaining experience on various neurodegenerative diseases from Alzheimer’s disease to Parkinson’s disease. It was during this time I was able to put together ideas for my Alzheimer’s Research UK junior fellowship to investigate the role of hnRNP proteins in frontotemporal dementia. During this time I had my youngest daughter which also gave me time to think about future ideas that I wanted to pursue. I began making my own collaborations around UCL and worldwide to expand techniques beyond pathological analysis to dissect the underlying mechanisms causing dementia. I was awarded an Alzheimer’s Research UK Senior Fellowship to continue my studies into Frontotemporal dementias. Throughout my career I have detailed the hallmarks in diseases that cause dementia, identified proteins that could be used as potential markers for individual diseases, with the use of post-mortem brain tissue being central to all of my investigations.
“I began making my own collaborations around UCL and worldwide to expand techniques…”
Over the years I have been successful in obtaining various project grants to grow my research group. I now head a group of researchers who complement and support each other. We now undertake proteomic, transcriptomic, lipidomic analysis paired with our pathological investigations. In 2019 I was appointed the Director of Research at Queen Square Brain Bank and promotion to Professor is further recognition of my commitment not only to the dementia research field, but also a commitment in supporting early career researchers to also progress their careers.
Being promoted to this position is a huge privilege. It would not have been possible without many people in my life including my husband, kids and family. I also have many people to thank at UCL and beyond for believing in me, for guiding me and allowing me to grow as a scientist. I’m also indebted to those who have donated their brains for dementia research. I am excited by the prospects of the DEMON Network, and as a Regional Lead for UCL I am looking forward to working with data scientists, artificial intelligence experts and clinicians in this national network to find innovative ways of combating dementia.
“Over the years I have been successful in obtaining various project grants to grow my research group. I now head a group of researchers who complement and support each other”
Highlights from our Early Career Development Session
Written by Dr Magda Bucholc and Dr Michele Veldsman, National Early Career Development Leads
Early Career Researchers (ECRs) face a number of challenges at a critical time in their academic careers, no more so than now, in the midst of a pandemic. Lab closures have stalled experiments, funding is tight and many universities and institutes have hiring freezes. The DEMON Network recognises the important role of ECRs in developing research capacity in dementia, and has initiated a unique cross-institutional platform to help foster effective communication among ECRs, and provide opportunities targeting their research interests and concerns. As National ECR leads for the DEMON network, we thought this was the perfect time for a (virtual) coffee and a chat with our ECR network to find ways to support our community. On Monday 13th July we held our first virtual ECR session to introduce ourselves and for our members to meet each other.
The group really showcased the interdisciplinary nature of the DEMON Network. We had ECRs working in clinical trials, psychologists, neuroscientists, biomedical and electrical engineers, geneticists, artificial intelligence (AI) and data scientists and clinicians. They all face many challenges with funding, publishing and career progression – many around the job market and the challenges of getting published when under the pressure of balancing different elements of career development and building up an academic profile. As well as facing similar challenges in their careers, our ECRs had a lot in common. They all showed a passion for innovation in dementia research, enthusiasm to collaborate and an interest in opportunities to improve their professional and technical skills.
“ECRs pitched some great ideas for how we can support them and facilitate truly multi-disciplinary research to answer some of the grandest challenges in dementia research”
Our ECRs pitched some great ideas for how we can support them and facilitate truly multi-disciplinary research to answer some of the grandest challenges in dementia research. Many of the ideas fit very well with the DEMON Network’s National Strategy. For example, making resources and training available to cater for the different levels of skill in data science and AI across our ECRs. Our ECRs also expressed a need for mentoring and help with grant writing. As part of our National Strategy, we are committed to sponsoring and mentoring ECRs, giving them an opportunity to contribute to or lead grant applications. There was a lot of interest in working with industry, from collaborating to developing translational and entrepreneurial skills. Sustained support for collaborative approaches was also seen to be an important issue, especially in the context of overcoming challenges to cross-sector, cross-disciplinary collaboration that could help tackle dementia research gaps, such as those related to the translational work challenges.
“As part of our National Strategy, we are committed to sponsoring and mentoring ECRs, giving them an opportunity to contribute to or lead grant applications”
As National ECR Leads, we are committed to highlighting the amazing multi-disciplinary work of our ECRs, including providing opportunities to showcase their work and facilitate networking. In the coming weeks we will be providing a space for the ECRs on the DEMON website to share our skills, interests and experience. We will run an ECR conference designed to foster new collaborations as well as organise networking and mentoring events at major national/international conferences. We will also enable ECRs to share their research by regularly profiling them on the DEMON network newsletter. In the future, we plan to organise a wide range of workshops that will foster professional development of ECRs and give them opportunity to develop across their institutions and main area of interest. We will also organise informal, thematic sessions bringing together established academics with ECRs. These events will be a great opportunity for ECRS to engage with the insights that more experienced researchers have gained over the years. And most importantly in these difficult times, we will work together as a community to support each other. We have a dedicated Slack channel to keep up in touch. If you are an ECR, please feel free to join.
“Most importantly in these difficult times, we will work together as a community to support each other”
Announcement: New partnership with the UK Dementia Research Institute
We are delighted to announce our new official partnership with the UK Dementia Research Institute (DRI), which brings together a combination of over 1,000 scientists and innovators from the DEMON Network and the UK DRI.
Launched on 17th July, this partnership unites these large dementia research initiatives which have the shared ambition of conducting leading dementia research that leads to improved diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
The DEMON Network is led by Director Prof David Llewellyn and Deputy Director Dr Janice Ranson at the University of Exeter Medical School. Funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Alan Turing Institute, the Network aims to provide a platform for innovation and facilitate novel collaborative approaches for interdisciplinary dementia research.
“We established the DEMON Network to bring innovators together, roll up their sleeves and transform the way dementia is prevented, diagnosed and treated. Both the DEMON Network and the UK DRI are keen to think big, focus on impact and take risks to make a real difference. This partnership strengthens the translational aspect of the UK DRI’s research and gives new opportunities to our ambitious and talented DEMON Network members” – Professor David Llewellyn, DEMON Network Director
The UK DRI was established to accelerate the discovery, development and delivery of interventions that will help diagnose, treat and ultimately prevent dementia. Led by Prof Bart De Strooper, their aim is to apply data science and artificial intelligence to expedite the transformation of data into clinical and biologically relevant knowledge in neurodegeneration research.
“The DEMON Network’s vision is to revolutionise dementia research and healthcare by connecting innovators and harnessing the power of data science and artificial intelligence. This new partnership will allow for interdisciplinary collaborations to maximise the potential of UK DRI data, enabling research on a scale not previously possible to make transformational advances in dementia research”.
Dr Janice Ranson, DEMON Network Deputy Director
The recently launched DEMON Network incorporates over 500 scientists, clinicians and industry partners across 6 continents. Network members contribute to collaborative research initiatives across 8 coordinated Working Groups, with support from a dedicated Clinical Advisory Panel and a Patient and Public Involvement Panel. This infrastructure includes training, networking, educational knowledge transfer and engagement with industry for real world impact. Members have wide-ranging interests including the optimisation of clinical trials, neuroimaging, diagnostic technologies, analytic methods development, genetics, and experimental medicine making it a perfect partner for the UK DRI.
The UK DRI is a joint investment by the Medical Research Council, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK which brings together over 400 researchers and 160 students with world-leading expertise in one national institute with over 55 Group Leaders across seven centres at UCL, the University of Cambridge, Cardiff University, the University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London and King’s College London.
“Enormous scientific and technological advances have made it possible to generate huge volumes of data that will hold clues to some of the big unknowns in dementia research. If we’re to take full advantage of these data, we need to draw on the widest possible pool of expertise and tackle the problem from every angle, leaving no stone unturned. By partnering with the Alan Turing Institute and the DEMON Network, we can draw on a vast range of skills and knowledge. In particular, their extensive experience of harnessing data science and artificial intelligence will help us accelerate progress towards new treatments and approaches. Partnerships like this are vital to solving problems and making the breakthroughs needed to revolutionise the way we treat dementia. I look forward to seeing what we can achieve together.”
Prof Bart De Strooper, Director of the UK DRI
The partnership includes the appointment of a new DEMON Network National Lead based at the UK DRI, to support joint research activities and knowledge exchange between talented researchers with complementary areas of expertise.
This partnership was launched at a Research Showcase on July 17th, including DEMON Network members demonstrating how they are using data science and artificial intelligence to enhance dementia research.
Join the Deep Dementia Phenotyping (DEMON) Network for free if you haven’t already and you’re interested in applying data science and AI to dementia research.
Newsletter June 2020: Special Issue
The results are in!
Our Collaborative Research Initiatives Survey results give us a crucial insight into what our Members want and what they’re motivated to do. Over a hundred Members contributed, and the results directly informed our recent National Strategy Meeting where we agreed our five Grand Challenges and set out plans for our eight practical Working Groups.
Read the full Survey report here
Newsletter May 2020
Opportunity: DEMON Network National Leads
The DEMON Network brings together academics, clinicians and other partners. By connecting these people, we can identify innovative approaches to interdisciplinary collaborative dementia research.
We are recruiting National Leads to provide strategic support to the Network by developing activity in five key areas.
The following voluntary positions are available:
- National Clinical Lead
- National Industry Lead
- National Data Science Lead
- National Artificial Intelligence Lead
- National Early Career Lead
National Leads will:
- Provide strategic support to the DEMON Network team and Regional Leads.
- Help to identify funding opportunities for Network-related activities.
- Promote DEMON Network activities by utilizing existing contacts.
- Help organize national Network events and activities relevant to the area of leadership.
- Work with the DEMON Network Steering Committee and Regional Leads to develop a national strategy for data science and AI in dementia.
Who is eligible to apply?
- Do you have experience in one of the five key areas?
- Do you have capacity to spend around one day a month on Network activities?
- Are you passionate about the application of data science and AI to dementia research?
- Would you like to develop leadership experience and be a part of an exciting new initiative?
If so, we would love to hear from you!
To apply for a National Lead position please download the application form below, and send your completed application along with your CV to the Network Administrator Jan Alcott firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on Wednesday 29th January 2020.
All applicants will be informed of the final decision by email by the 31st January 2020.
National Leads will be selected for a two year term in the first instance. Reasonable expenses incurred meeting with the Network Steering Committee or similar activities agreed in advance will be reimbursed.
If you have any questions about the role please contact the DEMON Network Coordinator Janice Ranson email@example.com