• Question: what is the most exciting thing that has happened in your scientific career

    Asked by lewis T on 11 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 11 Jun 2019:

      So far, probably what I found during my PhD which focused on the molecular mechanisms of hypothermic neuroprotection (how cooling protects brain cells).
      Innovative strategies are needed to protect the brain. Cooling is robustly neuroprotective, but currently of use in just a few patients with acute brain injury (such as babies starved of oxygen at birth). My PhD was driven by the concept that greater therapeutic potential may lie in understanding how cooling protects brain cells at the molecular level. Previous studies in rats had suggested that cooling could precondition or ‘train’ the brain to cope with injuries that would otherwise be lethal. Using human brain cells grown from stem cells, I mimicked clinical cooling in the lab to explore how molecular consequences of this protected brain cells from common injurious factors.
      Cooling produced a molecular ‘cold-shock’ response in human brain cells and protected them from key death-inducing factors. It also dramatically affected tau—a brain cell protein that becomes irreversibly modified in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Remarkably, cooling returned tau to a ‘foetal-like’ state, providing evidence that cooling partially reverses development in human brain cells. Moreover, by causing a mild cellular stress, cooling preconditioned the unfolded protein response (UPR)—a cellular signaling cascade that maintains protein quality control, but becomes overwhelmed in neurodegenerative diseases. I demonstrated that cold-induced changes in tau and the UPR represent significant components of hypothermic neuroprotection. Since cooling protects brain cells from molecular stressors implicated in both traumatic and degenerative processes, understanding the molecular biology of cooling (cryobiology) could reveal multiple therapeutic targets for brain disorders—without cooling patients.
      All of my work has been published in Open Access journals, which means anyone can read it online for free. Here are some of the publications relevant to this work:

    • Photo: Rebecca Moon

      Rebecca Moon answered on 11 Jun 2019:

      Its always super exciting when my research is accepted to be published in a journal. This is the way researchers share the findings of their work with other scientists, but it’s not as easy as it sounds to just get your work accepted. It has to be reviewed by several experts in the area first who critique it and ask you to adapt it and/or change bits, add stuff in etc. Then the paper has to be modified and resubmitted. Its quite a time consuming process so it’s always amazing when the email comes through saying the work has been accepted!

    • Photo: Deepak Chandrasekharan

      Deepak Chandrasekharan answered on 11 Jun 2019:

      Getting the post to start my PhD (research degree) was really great. Up until then I’d done bits of science as and when I could whilst in medschool and then during surgical training. The chance to spend 3 years full time focussing on research, on a question that interested me, with a great team teaching and supporting was just an amazing opportunity!

    • Photo: James Streetley

      James Streetley answered on 12 Jun 2019:

      In 2017, 3 scientists got the Nobel Prize for their discoveries which more or less invented my field in electron microscopy https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/chemistry/2017/summary/. I was not at all involved – the work was mostly done before I was born, but it was incredibly exciting to have so much attention focussed on our tiny area of science for a few weeks. As part of the buzz, I was asked to write a small explainer on the technique for the online magazine The Conversation, which was also a great experience: https://theconversation.com/trio-behind-method-to-visualise-the-molecules-of-life-wins-2017-nobel-prize-in-chemistry-85209

    • Photo: Marianne King

      Marianne King answered on 12 Jun 2019:

      It was definitely getting the email from my now supervisor that I had been chosen for this PhD project. I’m a very quiet person but I literally screamed. I was working in a hospital lab at the time so got into trouble for screaming. I handed my notice in 2 weeks later and that felt pretty great too (I hated that job…).

    • Photo: Shobhana Nagraj

      Shobhana Nagraj answered on 12 Jun 2019:

      Exciting moments: Travelling to amazing places around the world and working with a great team of people; Getting scientific research published; Seeing the research you are doing helping the lives of others and seeing their appreciation for what you do; meeting really inspiring people. The Most exciting thing was to get my fellowship to do the work I am currently doing as my PhD – it was the culmination of a lot of hard work!

    • Photo: Kate Timms

      Kate Timms answered on 12 Jun 2019:

      Hmmm… well, I think for me it was probably finally becoming a Dr! After 9 years of studying after college, it was amazing to pass my PhD viva (a face to face exam where 2 experts in your field examine your PhD thesis). It was such an incredible feeling. It still makes me grin like an idiot when I see my name as Dr Kate… instead of Miss Kate… on things. 😊

    • Photo: Kaitlin Wade

      Kaitlin Wade answered on 12 Jun 2019:

      The most exciting thing was probably when I got to present my work to a room of about 500 people in Denmark. I got a pretty hard question at the end of it and NAILED it. That was awesome.

    • Photo: Matthew Bareford

      Matthew Bareford answered on 20 Jun 2019:

      During my degree studies, I worked on developing possible new compounds to use for anti-cancer medication, and one of mine was put forward to clinical trials – so that was pretty cool!