Blog posts

Shivani Patel: ‘Work hard, have faith, never give up!’

What is your name?

Shivani Patel

Where are you from?

Hertfordshire, UK

To which class do you belong?

MSc Translational Neuroscience, Class of 2018

Where and what did you study before joining Imperial College London?

BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science, University of Hertfordshire

How did you find your Master experience at the College?

Challenging yet extremely rewarding!

Which research project did you work on?

A neuropathological project with clinical elements titled, ‘A Clinicopathological Investigation of the Locus Coeruleus in Parkinson’s Disease with Cognitive Impairment’, supervised by Dr Bension Tilley and Professor Steve Gentleman

Where are you now? 

PhD student at Imperial College London

What are you working on?

I am continuing my research from the Master’s project in Professor Steve Gentleman’s lab

What is the most important lesson you learnt as a Master student?

Perseverance – work hard, have faith, never give up!

How did the Master programme help you get to where you are now?

The Masters programme provided me with first-hand experience in a laboratory within academia. It enabled me to build my contacts and connections, who then helped me better understand the different options available for PhD applications, as well as the way to apply for research grants

Aisling McGarry: ‘The sense of reward was immense when presenting my findings to a room full of scientists’

What is your name?

Aisling McGarry

Where are you from?

I am originally from Derry in Northern Ireland. I have been living in London since 2017

To which class you belong to?

MRes Experimental Neuroscience, Class of 2019

Where and what did you study before joining Imperial College London?

I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from the University of Manchester in 2017. For my final year project, I created a simulation model of ion transport across the blood-brain barrier using MATLAB. After this, I worked as an Editorial Assistant at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society for a year, working on the British National Formulary (BNF) and other pharmacy reference books

How did you find your Master experience at the College?

Even though I found studying my Master’s degree could be incredibly demanding and stressful at times, I can whole-heartedly say it was one of the best years of my life so far. From the day I started, it was a steep learning curve, but I was provided with so many brilliant opportunities to learn. Exploring different research topics and learning novel experimental techniques was not only incredibly exciting, but also invaluably useful when building a career in research. I loved the everyday experience of lab bench work, from performing experiments to statistical analysis, and the sense of reward was immense when presenting my findings to a room full of scientists. It was my Master’s experience that made me realise I want to stay in scientific research for the rest of my life! I can say that I have never worked as hard as I did during my year of Master’s study, but it was entirely worth it for the research skills I gained

Which research projects did you work on?

My Master’s programme included 3 project rotations – lasting 12 weeks each. For my first rotation, I worked with Dr Carmen Picon in the group headed by Professor Richard Reynolds, focusing on cell death of grey matter neurons in multiple sclerosis. In this project, I became accustomed to immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence and western blotting techniques for the first time. For me, it demanded a lot of practice and focus to make sure I could complete my experiments according to rigorous protocols and obtain reproducible data. I was lucky enough to have brilliant guidance and support in doing this. I worked with post-mortem human brain tissue from the Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Tissue Bank here at Imperial, so this was when I first became familiar with the various aspects of post-mortem tissue processing. My second project was with Dr Magdalena Sastre, looking to investigate the putative molecular mechanisms linking major depression with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). I used molecular biology techniques such as western blotting and qPCR to elucidate how the expression of genes and proteins linked to amyloid-beta (Aβ) production, a major pathological hallmark of AD, were altered in major depression. During this project, I gained a sense of confidence in my ability as an independent researcher. This was down to Magdalena’s support and guidance throughout this project: her dedication to students is exceptional. It was also during this project I realised my research interests were refining neuropathology. In particular, I wanted to learn more about neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. For my final project, I continued to work in Magdalena’s lab group and worked with various researchers including Dr Mazdak Ghajari, Dr Helena Watts and Dr Cornelius Donat. I studied blood-brain barrier dysfunction in an animal model of traumatic brain injury (TBI). I used immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence staining, where I showed tight junction, astrocyte end-feet loss and extravasation of blood-borne proteins proximal to an impact injury site. I also had fun learning how to section my paraffin blocks with a microtome during this time! This project gave me further insight into the world of researchers by understanding the utility of collaboration – my histology staining was conducted to supplement a computational simulation of vascular injury in a rat model, created by Dr Siamak Farajzadeh Khosroshahi from Dr Mazdak Ghajari’s lab

Where are you now? 

I was lucky enough to accept my current job at Imperial a few weeks upon completing my Master’s degree. I am working in Professor Paul Matthew’s group at the UK Dementia Research Institute as a Research Technician

What are you working on?

Broadly speaking, my role as a Research Technician is focused on using histological and transcriptomic techniques to collate data contributing to the Multi-omics Atlas Project (MAP). MAP aims to provide a comprehensive, multi-omic tissue resource that charts the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in the human brain across different brain regions. This resource will be openly accessible for the scientific community worldwide and will inform future research efforts. In this role, I am learning to use novel molecular techniques such as in situ hybridisation and single-cell RNA sequencing to characterise gene expression. I am also continually building upon my histological skills by using immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence to characterise tissue and optimise antibody use. Outside of the lab, I am learning more about imaging software to annotate and analyse microscopic images, and R packages for RNA-sequencing analysis

What is the most important lesson you learnt as a Master student?

There were many lessons I learnt as a Master’s student, so it’s difficult to pick one that could have been most important. I would say that my experience taught me to be kinder to myself – or else I would have been a bundle of stress! I experienced for the first time a feeling that all scientists are accustomed to – the disappointment of when an experiment hasn’t worked. This, in fact, probably taught me more than any successful experiment could have. It forced me to pay attention to every detail of my experimental protocol and to try to understand what could go wrong – for example, understanding optimal conditions for your tissue and antibodies. I learned to adjust my expectations realistically based on this experience. It made me realise that just because an experiment didn’t produce the results I had hoped, doesn’t reflect on my potential as a scientist. In fact, what demonstrates true ability as a scientist is to be innovative, by working towards solutions or new ways of achieving your experimental goals. I still apply this practice every day in my current role and it has allowed to optimise new techniques to facilitate new means of validating our data

How did the Master programme help you get to where you are now?

I can confidently say I would not be in the job I love today without the experience I gained from my Master’s programme. My research projects had already given me significant experimental and analytical skills required for my current role. I was confident with the use of histological and molecular biology techniques, microscopy and statistical analysis – all of which I use every day in my job. Beyond these skills, producing high-quality research under significant time constraints demanded agility and resilience – it was definitely a character-building experience! As well as research experience, this Master’s programme also provided numerous opportunities to present my findings in the form of posters and talks. This developed my confidence and provided me with a sense of ownership over my work which was incredibly rewarding. It was the first time I could see and experience the impact of scientific research for myself, by being a part of it. The experience of this programme was exceptional in that I got to emulate, as closely as possible, the day-to-day work as a research scientist for 12 months. This gave me enough time to grow and mature into a fully equipped, independent researcher, while giving me the flexibility and opportunity to delve into a multitude of research topics and experimental techniques. I haven’t seen another Master’s programme that I think could recreate this brilliant experience!

Panagiotis Giannos: ‘The MSc further stimulated my intellectual curiosity’

What is your name?

Panagiotis Giannos

Where are you from?

Greece

To which class you belong to?

MSc Translational Neuroscience, Class of 2020

Where and what did you study before joining Imperial College London?

I graduated from the University of Brighton with a BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Science

How did you find your Master experience at the College?

The course was an intensive, exciting and truly enlightening experience. Intensive because of its approach to knowledge application by emphasising the ability to work independently and as part of a team. Exciting due to its interdisciplinary cohort of students and professionals, which brought a unique set of perspectives and experience in an environment that encourages the exchange of ideas. Most importantly, enlightening through its versatile structure, which provides the opportunity to explore contemporary neuroscience research transcending the boundaries of traditional disciplines

Which research project did you work on?

My project aimed at unveiling the neural circuitry underlying cortical homeostatic control of sleep-preparatory behaviour and subsequently sleep. I conducted my research project under the supervision of Professor William Wisden and Dr Kyoko Tossell at the Franks-Wisden Lab

Where are you now?

I am working towards a PhD in the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London under the supervision of Professor William Wisden and Professor Nicholas Franks in the same laboratory in which I did my MSc project

What are you working on?

My PhD analyses how sleep modulation arises from a central hypothalamic hub that is subject to cortico-thalamic control in response to circadian homeostasis. It will likely challenge the notion that sleep regulation simply originates from sleep-wake nuclei in the brainstem; sleep may, instead, constitute a default state of cortico-thalamic circuits

What is the most important lesson you learnt as a Master student?

By focusing on research questions across disciplinary boundaries, this course made me realise that scientific understanding is limited when appraised from the edges of a single discipline

How did the Master programme help you get to where you are now?

Through the creation of an environment where expertise and technology from a diverse array of disciplines meet, the MSc further stimulated my intellectual curiosity. It allowed me to cultivate relevant research skills and a distinct research drive, to develop into a young scientist, to think independently and in a somehow ‘revolutionary’ way, integrating different approaches. Ultimately, this course equipped me adequately and appropriately to explore some of the most exciting challenges in neuroscience

Helen Lai: ‘I met some absolutely brilliant and wonderful people’

What is your name?

Helen Lai

Where are you from?

Canada

To which class you belong to?

MRes Experimental Neuroscience, Class of 2019 

Where and what did you study before joining Imperial College London?

BSc Major Biology, Minor Neuroscience, McGill University, Canada

How did you find your Master experience at the College?

I had a great time during my master’s, most of which I can’t quite remember—Hallmarks of a great party, really! In seriousness, it was an extremely intensive and hyper-productive ten months. I learned more than I could have imagined and met some absolutely brilliant and wonderful people 

Which research project did you work on?

I worked on three different projects during my three MRes rotations. The first one was on chronic neurodegeneration following moderate-severe TBI, supervised by Professor David Sharp. During the second rotation, I investigated Biomechanical features of head impacts in ice hockey with Dr Mazdak Ghajari. In the third one, I focused on data-driven methods to describe complex relationships between behavioural, motor, and imaging features of Parkinson’s Disease, supervised by Dr Steve Gentleman, Dr Adam Hampshire and Dr Stefano Sandrone

Where are you now? 

I am working as a research technician for the UK Dementia Research Institute Care Research and Technology Centre (UK DRI CR&T) at Imperial College London

What are you working on?

Several projects within the UK DRI CR&T, broadly focused around the theme of helping vulnerable people stay independent in their homes with the aid of technology 

What is the most important lesson you learnt as a Master student?

To be open-minded to learning new things—and fast!

How did the Master programme help you get to where you are now?

It helped me build up the necessary skills in data analysis and visualisation. More importantly, it helped me learn the interpersonal and time-management skills to work effectively as a unit within a large, evolving group, often with diverse backgrounds and perspectives

Kety Alania: ‘My experiences during the Master program played a pivotal role in my career’

What is your name? 

Kety Alania

 

Where are you from? 

I’m from Georgia

 

To which class you belong to? 

Class of 2018

 

Where and what did you study before joining Imperial College London? 

I completed BSc Psychology at Royal Holloway University in Surrey

 

How did you find your Master experience at the College? 

I really enjoyed my MSc course. I loved the course content. It gave us a broad but, at the same time, detailed overview of different subfields of neuroscience. We had regular journal club assessments, which I thought were an excellent way to help us build confidence and develop presenting and public speaking skills. We had so many. By the end, it no longer felt like an assessment, and we were actually looking forward to it. Most importantly, I made some amazing friends while on the course, for which I’m very grateful

 

Which research project did you work on? 

My research project focused on using non-invasive brain stimulation methods to modulate brain activity and cognition. More specifically, I was developing methods to simultaneously monitor brain activity while delivering electrical stimulation, which is a big challenge in the field

 

Where are you now?  

I’m am completing the first year of my PhD at Imperial College

 

What are you working on? 

My research focuses on developing and translating non-invasive deep brain stimulation interventions for neuropathology and cognitive decline in early Alzheimer’s Disease

 

What is the most important lesson you learnt as a Master student?

Get involved! Look for things that capture your curiosity, and then take the initiative. And while you are doing that, look for mentors. They will be the most important thing in your career

 

How did the Master programme help you get to where you are now? 

My experiences during the Master program played a pivotal role in my career. The relationships I formed and mentorship I received during my time on the course, especially while working on my project, has definitely shaped me as a scientist

Paula Beltran Lobo: ‘I am delighted to see that my classmates have become colleagues and friends of mine’

What is your name?

Paula Beltran Lobo

Where are you from?

Spain

To which class you belong to?

MSc Translational Neuroscience, Class of 2018

Where and what did you study before joining Imperial College London?

I studied BSc Biomedical Sciences at the University of Barcelona

How did you find your Master experience at the College?

I found the Master experience a unique academic opportunity that offered me both professional and personal growth. The course challenged the students and motivated us to work together. I am delighted to see that my classmates have become colleagues and friends of mine

Which research project did you work on?

My MSc research project focused on understanding the role of the translocator Protein 18 kDa (TSPO) in myeloid cells as a potential strategy to modulate the innate immune response in neurodegenerative diseases

Where are you now? 

I am currently doing a PhD at King’s College London funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK)

What are you working on?

During my MSc course, I became very passionate about the role of the immune system in neurodegeneration. I decided to continue my research career with a PhD in this field. My current research project tries to unravel how inflammatory signals downstream of a purinergic receptor, known as P2X7R, contribute to tau-associated neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease

What is the most important lesson you learnt as a Master student?

Probably a valuable lesson I learnt was to persevere and to push myself

How did the Master programme help you get to where you are now?

The MSc programme gave not only the theoretical bases, but also the experimental knowledge required to enrol into the PhD programme

Bryony Goulding Mew: ‘Before the Master, I would have never thought I could complete a project in computational neuroscience!’

What is your name?

​Bryony Goulding Mew

Where are you from?

Oxford, UK

To which class you belong to?

MSc Translational Neuroscience, Class of 2019

Where and what did you study before joining Imperial College London?

BSc Neuroscience at the University of Manchester, UK

How did you find your Master experience at the College?

The University was a wonderful place to be. I loved being surrounded by fellow scientists. The Translational Neuroscience course was stimulating and challenging. The lectures and theoretical content were balanced well with research, and it was a great way to put our understanding and critical thinking into practice. It is also a great feeling knowing you are working with some of the best scientists in their field

Which research project did you work on?

I worked with Dr Adam Hampshire and Dr Stefano Sandrone on a computational neuroimaging project which aimed to map the neural correlates of visual, rule and motor conflict in the human brain

Where are you now? /What are you working on?

I am currently writing up my Master project for publication. I am also working as a domiciliary carer with a view to applying for graduate medicine this year

What is the most important lesson you learnt as a Master student?

To have more confidence in my own abilities. My lecturers and supervisors at Imperial were always so supportive and reminded me that they were once in my shoes. Before the Master, I would have never thought I could complete a project in computational neuroscience!

How did the Master programme help you get to where you are now?

It has provided me with a love of science, problem-solving and critical thinking. It has given me the impetus and confidence to apply for graduate medicine

Alexandra Rother: ‘My wet-lab and independent working skills improved during my Master’s thesis’

What is your name?

Alexandra Rother

Where are you from?

Munich, Germany

To which class you belong to?

MSc Translational Neuroscience, Class of 2018

Where and what did you study before joining Imperial College London?

BSc Molecular Biotechnology at the Technical University of Munich

How did you find your Master experience at the College?

While it was an intense year, I learnt a lot, beyond subject-related matters, and I met amazing people, including close friends

Which research project did you work on?

I worked on a project about a mutation in familial Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in the Laboratory headed by Professor Jacqueline de Belleroche

Where are you now? 

I am a PhD student in the Denk Lab at the Max-Planck-Institute of Neurobiology in Germany

What are you working on?

In my PhD project, I am focusing on songbird connectomics and on how songbirds learn their species-specific song. I am using electron microscopic data to analyse the brain circuit responding to song learning on a synaptic level. Additionally, my PhD also involves work on sample preparation for the electron microscope

What is the most important lesson you learnt as a Master student?

To never give up and use the opportunity to learn new skills as you might end up liking them. For me, that was the case when I was introduced to coding and computational neuroscience where I was surprised how much I actually enjoyed it

How did the Master programme help you get to where you are now?

As mentioned above, it made me realize that I also enjoyed analysis outside of the lab, giving me a few basic programming skills that I am expanding in my PhD now. Also, my BSc programme was very general, so the MSc programme gave me Neuroscience-specific knowledge. My wet-lab and independent working skills improved during my Master’s thesis, while presentation skills developed throughout the general course, as did my English. Overall, learning so many new things within this year gave me the confidence to start my PhD in a more fundamental neurobiological subject, namely quite different from what I worked on previously

Carolina (Lena) Beppi: ‘A challenging, yet stimulating, enriching and pleasant experience’

What is your name?

Carolina (Lena) Beppi

Where are you from?

I was born in Livorno, Tuscany, in 1994, from Italian and English parents

To which class you belong to?

MSc Translational Neuroscience, Class of 2018

Where and what did you study before joining Imperial College London?

I obtained a B.Sc. in Psychology, Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience from Royal Holloway, University of London, in Egham (Surrey)

How did you find your Master experience at the College?

Studying at a top-ranked and most respected academic institution in the world, in the heart of a dynamic and culturally diversified metropolis, is an appealing welcome card. This may induce high expectations, excitement and perhaps fright to an arriving student at Imperial College. The Master course has been a journey of continuous academic and personal growth. Learning from the brightest staff while studying with highly capable coursemates rendered it a challenging, yet stimulating, enriching and pleasant experience

Which research project did you work on?

My research project focused on neuromodulatory approaches in human cognition, and was supervised by Dr Adam Hampshire, Dr Nir Grossman, Dr Stefano Sandrone and Dr Inês R. Violante. We aimed at modulating response-inhibition performance in a ‘stop-signal task’ by manipulating the onset of the task’s visual stimuli relative to the phase of the ongoing EEG oscillatory signal

Where are you now? 

I live in Zürich, Switzerland, where I am pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience

What are you working on?

I am working on different projects that involve animal modelling and experimentation, clinical data-analysis, and diagnostic tests and therapies in concussion. My ultimate aim is to understand the relation between cognition and physiology to develop approaches for improving health and well-being

What is the most important lesson you learnt as a Master student?

There may be some challenging moments during the Master. My constant reminder was that no remarkable achievement is obtained without effort, dedication and perseverance

How did the Master programme help you get to where you are now?

The Master programme has prepared me to pursue my doctoral studies, personally and professionally. The cutting-edge biomedical research context and extremely competent staff have stimulated my curiosity, expanding my knowledge, but also trained my critical thinking and technical competences. The social environment has been a unique opportunity to get inspired, to question and to push me, developing determination and resilience

Joanna Kuc: ‘I am sure I would not have ended up where I am now without attending the Master’

What is your name?

Joanna Kuc

Where are you from?

Gdansk, Poland

To which class you belong to?

MSc Translational Neuroscience, Class of 2019

Where and what did you study before joining Imperial College London?

BSc Pharmacology at Nottingham Trent University

How did you find your Master experience at the College?

The course was demanding and inspiring. Having an opportunity to work alongside world-class researchers, as well as being surrounded by other students who genuinely share your passion, creates a perfect environment where you can become creative and develop your interests

Which research project did you work on?

“Psychedelic experience modulated by cannabis usage: results of a large-scale prospective survey” at the Centre for Psychedelic Research under the supervision of Dr Robin Carhart-Harris and Dr David Erritzoe

Where are you now? 

I am now working as a Research Associate for COMPASS Pathways, a company dedicated to developing novel treatments for mental health, with the main focus being Psilocybin Therapy for treatment-resistant depression  

What are you working on?

I am mostly involved in the design of clinical trials using novel approaches, such as apps for the mobile phone, to monitor the mental health of patients through digital phenotyping, alongside the core treatment programme

What is the most important lesson you learnt as a Master student?

For an aspiring researcher, it is important to be surrounded by people who share your passion. This will allow you to learn from them and become independent when progressing through your career

How did the Master programme help you get to where you are now?

I am sure I would not have ended up where I am now without attending the Master course at Imperial College. Apart from gaining a comprehensive understanding of modern neuroscience and computational skills, I had an opportunity to work in the Centre for Psychedelic Research led by Dr Robin Carhart-Harris. My current work is directly linked to developing psychedelics as novel tools to be used in psychiatry, and I think the work at the Centre has definitely prepared me well for my current role