FutureNeuro is a multi-disciplinary and inter-institutional research centre aiming to transform the lives of patients in Ireland and worldwide. But what is it like to be part of the team? We sat down with Rachel Stewart, PhD student in NUIG, co-supervised by Prof Sanbing Shen and Dr Nicky Allen and funded by IRC/NCRC and FutureNeuro.
‘The most interesting part of my job is getting to be part of such important research and use new technologies that will hopefully allow us to gain a better understanding of the disease.’
Name and Role with FutureNeuro
Rachel Stewart. PhD student in National University of Ireland, Galway which is funded by IRC/NCRC and FutureNeuro
How long have you been with FutureNeuro and how did you get here?
My research has been supported by FutureNeuro since March 2019 when I started my PhD.
Why did you follow this career path?
I have always been very interested in scientific research, particularly in Neuroscience. During my Masters degree in Regenerative Medicine in NUIG, I spent 3 months doing a research project on Spinal cord Injury in The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, USA. During this time, I learned a lot about neuroscience and my interest in choosing a research career really began here. I discovered this was an area I wished to pursue further which is why I was very keen to take part in my current project which focuses on Epileptic Encephalopathy.
What are you working on at the moment?
The title of my current project is “Modelling human brain circuitry in KCNQ2 Epileptic Encephalopathy patients using induced pluripotent stem cells”
We hypothesise that Induced pluripotent stem cells (ipsc)-derived neurons with KCNQ2 mutations will allow us to model the disease effects in vitro. This will facilitate a better understanding of the disease mechanisms, offer human stem cell models of disease and enable drug screening in vitro.
What is the most interesting thing your job involves?
The most interesting part of my job is getting to be part of such important research and use new technologies that will hopefully allow us to gain a better understanding of the disease.
What are the best and worst things about your job?
The best part of the job for me is learning more and more experimental techniques each day that will facilitate my development as a scientific researcher. I also love being involved in such important research as there is currently very poor treatment options for many KCNQ2 Epileptic Encephalopathy patients, so there is a need to develop more effective treatment options. I can’t think of a worst thing at the moment!
What have been your greatest work achievements to date?
The greatest work achievements so far have been establishing patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cell lines for several KCNQ2-Epileptic Encephalopathy patients that can now be used to model the disease in-vitro.
What are your favourite things about working with FutureNeuro?
FutureNeuro are a great centre to be affiliated with as they are at the forefront of cutting-edge Neuroscience research in Ireland. I really enjoy working alongside FutureNeuro who offer me invaluable support throughout my research career.