Interviews with Scientists: Erica Brady
We’re delighted to introduce Erica Brady next in our Interviews with Scientists series! Erica obtained her BSc (hons) in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Dundee back in 2015 before moving back to her home city of Edinburgh.
It was there that Erica won a scholarship from the University of Edinburgh to undertake an MSc by Research in Integrative Neuroscience, researching post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the behavioural events that influence a symptom of PTSD called fear generalisation.
After getting her degree, Erica took some time out for a ‘delayed gap year’ and travelled around South East Asia before coming back to the UK and settling down in Exeter. She is currently doing a GW4 BioMed MRC Doctoral Training Partnership funded PhD at the University of Exeter looking at how interneurons are contributing to the circuit disruptions seen in Alzheimer’s disease.
Thank you so much for speaking to us Erica! Our first question is, what is your PhD in?
During NREM sleep the neuronal oscillation, known as the slow wave oscillation, is important for the consolidation of memory and cellular repair. In the preclinical stages of Alzheimer’s Disease this oscillation has shown to be disrupted due to a lack of network inhibition, which is under the control of a specific class of neuron called the interneuron. The aim of my PhD is to identify which class of interneuron is contributing to these disruptions and to manipulate them with the hope of restoring the oscillation and improving memory.
I also have a fun little side project with neurogliaform and astrocytes going on at the moment so we will see where that goes!
Did you always want to be a scientist when you were younger, and why?
Honestly, no. I enjoyed learning about science while at school which is why I chose to study biomedical science at university, but I had no end goal. I just enjoyed learning. It wasn’t until undertaking a summer research placement before my final year of undergrad that I realised how enjoyable research can be, and it was then I decided to pursue a career in science.
What made you want to pursue a career in your particular field?
I just enjoyed learning about science – science is cool!
What advice would you give to someone just starting their PhD?
As someone who is just starting their PhD, I am open to advice myself! But so far I would say communicate with your supervisor, and work hard but remember to also chill out and enjoy yourself! I know it’s not meant to be easy, but there is no reason it can’t be fun too.
What are you enjoying most about your PhD?
I am enjoying learning something so completely new and foreign to me. It’s a nice feeling starting something from scratch and practising techniques I have wanted to learn for a while now. I am learning a lot and learning about science is the whole reason I started down this path.
Tell us a bit more about what you’re working on at the moment...
At the moment I am using in vitro patch-clamp to investigate a phenomenon known as persistent firing in neurogliaform cells (my side project) and to try and identify any changes that may be occurring in mouse models of Alzheimer’s Disease.
What does a typical day in the lab look like for you?
If I’m not patching cells, I am genotyping mice or catching up on some reading. But patching is my life at the moment.
What do you think are the biggest challenges or barriers that life scientists are facing at the moment?
I am relatively new to academia but from what I have seen the pressure to publish is huge, especially amongst early career researchers.
If you weren’t a scientist, what do you think you’d be doing?
I’ve never given much thought to what else I would do, I’ve had a one-track mind for a few years now. I’d like to think I would be somewhere hot and getting paid to dive for a living. Idealistic!
Outside the lab, what do you enjoy doing?
When I was living in Edinburgh I enjoyed climbing mountains, but there is a shortage of them in Devon. I still try to spend my weekends outside as most of my days are spent indoors in a lab, but if that fails I really enjoy baking!
What is it about your field of research that gets you most excited?
I think trying to understand how the brain works is extremely exciting in itself, there are still so many unanswered questions and I love that I can contribute to this growing knowledge.
What’s your favourite science quote?
I know a lot of neuroscience chat-up lines but none of them are appropriate to repeat…
What do you think is the greatest scientific discovery of all time?
I don’t entirely know how it came about but the discovery of the microscope is definitely up there, basically all scientific disciplines use microscopes in some shape or form to help us understand the things we can’t see and they will have played a role in a lot of other great scientific discoveries since their invention.
Thank you so much Erica for a great interview!
You can follow Erica on Twitter at @esbrady93
And you can follow Erica’s lab, The Craig Lab, at @TheCraigLab