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”

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