Evie Lloyd-Morris is a neuroscientist at King’s College London and a Scholar on the British Neuroscience Association’s inaugural Scholars programme, of which COMPASS is a founding supporter.
To recognise the International Day of Education on 24 January, Evie talked to us about neuroscience, how she got where she is today, and her advice for students interested in a science career.
Tell us about your education. What led you to become a neuroscientist?
My educational journey started with a BA in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. It was an incredibly broad degree, introducing me to many different aspects of psychology and behavioural neuroscience, as well as experiment design and statistics. I loved studying the brain and wanted to learn more about how it functions, so I went on to complete an MSc in Neuroscience at King’s College London.
I then worked as a Research Assistant (RA) in a Parkinson’s disease lab at the Alzheimer’s Research UK Oxford Drug Discovery Institute for a year and a half. After my experience as an RA, I wanted more autonomy over my research, so I decided to apply for the Medical Research Council Doctoral Training Partnership programme at King’s College London – and was delighted to get accepted!
What have you learnt from the Medical Research Council’s MRes-PhD programme?
The programme taught me practical skills like Western blotting and histology, and transferable skills like scientific communication. In my first year I completed three short research projects, which constituted an MRes. Lab environments can be very different from each other, and I learnt that I prefer supervisors who encourage creative and independent thought, and how important it is to have friendly, supportive lab colleagues.
What are you researching currently?
For my PhD, I’m studying the role of mitochondrial transport on synaptic integrity during ageing – trying to understand part of what goes on in the brain as we get older.
The brain contains billions of neurons, which are cells that receive and transmit signals across junctions known as synapses. Mitochondria are structures inside neurons that provide energy and help to keep synapses healthy. As we age, mitochondria become less efficient and don’t move around the cell as much. There is also a decrease in synaptic integrity as we get older. My project aims to understand whether these two changes are linked – do the age-related deficiencies in mitochondrial health cause synapses to become less healthy?
Ultimately, we want to understand the cellular mechanisms causing neuronal damage in ageing and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
What are some of the most exciting advancements in neuroscience?
I am particularly excited about recent developments in gene editing. By editing the DNA of model systems, we can better understand the role of particular genes and advance research into neurodegenerative diseases. I believe gene editing has huge potential in helping us understand more about what causes many different diseases, allowing us to develop more targeted drugs and treatments.
Do you have any advice for students who are interested in a career in science?
My advice is to get some practical experience in a laboratory, either through a work experience programme, by working as a research assistant, or by contacting research institutions and asking to shadow their scientists. This can help you decide if science is really for you, as experiments often involve lots of planning and troubleshooting before getting results!
I would recommend science to anyone who is curious about the world, enjoys being challenged, and likes to come up with creative ways to solve complex problems.