Information for King’s Staff & Students

Register to attend HERE ! (please note: you MUST register with your college email or you will not receive the links to the sessions!)

If you are a teacher or student from one of our participating schools or outreach programmes please see our separate info page.

Every week throughout Black History Month, Women of the Wohl are hosting 2 speakers who identify as Black researchers in neuroscience and neuro-related research areas. They will showcase their work from a broad range of different neuroscience areas to the King’s College London research community in a 1 hour online seminar on Microsoft Teams. Come along to hear from a wide range of different areas within neuroscience, from institutions around the world and from different career stage researchers!

Each seminar is then followed by a 1 hour informal Q&A discussion aimed at students (undergraduate, masters, PhD) and early career stage researchers, as well as our attending A Level students from London schoools. Although the Q&A discussions are organised with these groups in mind, all other staff are welcome to attend if you wish. Anyone is also completely welcome to just stay for the hour of talks, as your schedules permit. The Q&A session will be an opportunity to ask the speakers anything about their career journey and their lived experience working in research, in a relaxed, informal setting. All King’s College London staff and students are welcome to attend these events: all career levels and all race and gender identities are welcome.

Each event will be chaired by the friendly Women of the Wohl team via audio/video and in the Teams chat function. We will be making sure everyone is treated with respect, feels welcome, safe, & comfortable and that everyone gets a fair chance to speak and ask their questions. You will be able to ask your questions using audio or the chat function in Microsoft Teams. We understand that not everyone finds it easy to ask questions in front of an audience or think of questions on the spot, which is why we’ve also created the option for you to anonymously submit your career-related questions for our speakers in advance here.

How do I register to attend?

If you would like to attend the seminar series you need to register via Eventbrite here. YOU MUST REGISTER USING YOUR KING’S COLLEGE EMAIL OTHERWISE YOU WILL NOT BE SENT THE LINKS TO THE ONLINE SESSIONS. This is so that we can ensure only King’s College staff and students are able to attend, to ensure online safeguarding of our A-level student attendees. You only need to register once for the entire event series and you will be sent the Microsoft Teams link for each week’s meeting.

Speaker Programme

This will be regularly updated as we confirm our programme of speakers. Please check back regularly for the most up-to-date information as it becomes available!

Session 1 – Thurs 8 Oct

Rebekah Smikle
Masters Student, King’s College London

Speaker Bio
I’m Rebekah, a Jamaican Neuroscience graduate with interests in neurodegeneration and dementia research, specifically frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FTD/ALS). I previously studied BSc Neuroscience at University College London (UCL), where I conducted research with Prof Stephanie Schorge and Dr Emma Clayton at the UCL Institute of Neurology. My work investigated synaptic dysfunction in frontotemporal dementia caused by a rare mutation in the gene, CHMP2B. I have recently completed the MSc Neuroscience in Neurodegeneration at King’s College London, working in the lab of Dr Sarah Mizielinska at the UK Dementia Research Institute. There, I investigated disease mechanisms in FTD/ALS caused by C9orf72 mutation and I hope to pursue a PhD in this area. I love all things science communication, widening participation and Jamaican culture (of course!). I am the Miss Jamaica UK 2019-2020 titleholder, an ambassadorial role which allows me to connect with the global Jamaican diaspora.
Twitter @rcsmikle | LinkedIn @rebekahsmikle

Synaptopathy in Frontotemporal Dementia?
Characterising presynaptic dysfunction of mutant CHMP2B

Frontotemporal dementia is the second most common form of early-onset dementia and senile neurodegenerative disease. One rare subtype is caused by a mutation in the gene CHMP2B. CHMP2B is a subunit of the endosomal sorting complexes required for transport (ESCRT) and CHMP2B mutation causes defects in certain protein degradation pathways. The ESCRT pathway is involved in degradation of synaptic vesicle proteins, and preliminary data by E. Clayton and S. Schorge demonstrates that several synaptic proteins accumulate in brains of aged mutant CHMP2B mice compared to age-matched controls. Synaptic vesicle protein accumulation would inevitably cause synaptic dysfunction, an effect not well studied in frontotemporal dementia. This project aimed to characterise this probable ‘synapto-pathogenic’ feature of CHMP2B-frontotemporal dementia, by investigating the subcellular localisation of mutant CHMP2B protein and examining the relative synaptic vesicle protein levels at early postnatal stages. Using immunofluorescence microscopy in mouse cortical neurons transfected with mutant CHMP2B DNA, we found that mutant CHMP2B forms puncta which co-localise with presynaptic marker SV2. Wildtype CHMP2B shows diffuse staining, but also co-localises with SV2. Cycloheximide chase and subsequent western blot were conducted to inhibit protein synthesis in protein lysates and isolate levels of the synaptic vesicle proteins synapsin, synaptophysin and SV2 remaining after protein degradation. While no significant difference was found between mutant lysates and wildtype controls, a surprising trend of increased protein accumulation in wildtype and decreased protein accumulation in mutant samples was observed. Additionally, an SV2 isoform not observed in wildtype samples accumulated in mutant samples. These findings demonstrate that mutant CHMP2B is localised to the presynaptic terminal, but point to the need for further investigation of its mechanism of action, including isoform-specific protein degradation. Understanding the pathogenic agency of mutant CHMP2B at the synapse will be useful for identifying therapeutic targets in CHMP2B-frontotemporal dementia.

Connor Scott
Senior Research Assistant & PhD Student, University of Oxford

Speaker Bio
Connor Scott is a neuroscientist at the University of Oxford, working in the Ansorge Lab in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences. In his lab, he works both as a senior research assistant while completing his studies as a PhD student. His research topics include glioblastoma, neurodegeneration, and LCM proteomics. In 2012, he graduated with a BSc in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Greenwich. After his undergraduate studies, he volunteered in several laboratories before receiving a job offer from the University of Oxford in 2013. After working as a scientist for 3 years, he started his PhD project and is aiming to complete it in the next few months.
During his studies, Connor was the Middle Common Room President of his Oxford college, and has a keen interest in public engagement, science communication, and education.
Twitter: @ConnorScott_OX | Website: connorscott.info

Investigating the Human Betz Cell
Classifying neurons and understanding neuronal selective vulnerability is paramount to understanding disease and discovering potential cures. The human Betz cell is the largest cell in the human body, and although first described in 1874 there has not been comprehensive research into the nature of the cell, despite its obvious morphology and clear involvement in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Using post mortem human brains as material, my PhD aims to discover unique insights into the Betz cell by using laser capture microdissection coupled with mass spectrometry or RNA sequencing to discover a Betz cell biochemical signature that will aid in future research, discover potential biomarkers, and help explain their vulnerability in disease.

Session 2 – Wed 14 Oct

Erin C. Hanlon, PhD
University of Chicago

Speaker Bio
Erin C. Hanlon, Ph.D. is a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, Section of Adult and Pediatric Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, at the University of Chicago. She received her undergraduate degree at Duke University and her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a behavioral neuroscientist, her primary research interests have included the detrimental effects of sleep loss and how sleep benefits health, with particular focus on the links between sleep deficiency, obesity, and diabetes. Specifically, she has focused on the effect of sleep restriction on brain reward and feeding systems as well as peripheral metabolic systems in both rodent and human models.

Sleep Deficiency: A Pathway to Obesity
Dr. Hanlon’s most recent studies have identified a 24hr rhythm in circulating endocannabinoid (eCB) levels, a system that has garnered much attention in recent years for its involvement in the regulation of hedonic food intake. Dr. Hanlon has shown that this rhythm is altered by sleep loss suggesting the involvement of the eCB system and hedonic eating in the excess food intake observed following sleep restriction. Further, she demonstrated that obese individuals have a misaligned endocannabinoid rhythm, suggesting that circadian disruption in the eCB system may constitute a circadian-mediated mechanism contributing to the underlying pathophysiology of obesity.

Jillian E. Franks
University of Missouri-St. Louis

Speaker Bio
Jillian E. Franks hopes to inspire the next generation of scholars and researchers and create a learning environment that recognizes and celebrates the differences inherent in humanity. Training as a social neuroscientist, Jillian has a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee with a minor in theater. Currently, she is a graduate student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis in the Social Neuroscience and Intergroup Relations Lab. Her early interest in the brain was sparked by a Christmas gift of a toy brain. Overtime, Jillian has participated in programs that support students from historically underrepresented communities interested in science and technology.
During graduate study, Jillian was awarded a Graduate School Minority Master’s Recruitment Fellowship, was second author on a mini-review published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research, and presented research on the effects of sexist comments made toward women STEM majors. Her proposed Master’s Thesis project examines same-race memory bias for skin tone modified emoji faces. Research interests also include neural synchronization, empathy, and cooperation in interracial dyads.
Competing as a high school and college swimmer, Jillian enjoys a leisurely lap around the pool and loves live theatre. Jillian desires to unite her passion for neuroscience and theatre by taking an interdisciplinary approach to the study of acting.
Contact: jillianefranks@mail.umsl.edu

The Other-Race Effect and Emojis:  A Memory and ERP Study Using Diverse Emojis
Other-race-effect or own-race-bias is a well-documented phenomenon in memory. Findings suggest that humans are better at recognizing and remembering faces of their own race than other races. Previous research suggests that these results are due to a lack of interracial contact or exposure to other racial groups. Evidence from previous studies has demonstrated that individuals process own-race faces differently than other-race faces, paying more attention to more salient features that become better encoded. While there is empirical support for both hypotheses, it has yet to be studied if the other-race effect for memory extends to people-emojis. Emojis are digital pictures used for electronic communication of emotions, expressions, and meaning. The current studies set out to determine if the other-race effect for recognition memory can be extended to emojis, specifically the category of “people” emojis. Black and White participants will view both light/medium-light skin tone and dark/medium-dark skin tone emojis. Participants will be tested on own-race bias in recognition memory of people-emojis and how it relates to cooperation. In the second study, own-race bias recognition memory and the event-related potentials, P100 and N170, associated with early facial detection and structural encoding, will be examined. It is predicted that both groups will demonstrate own-race bias when recalling emojis.

Session 3 – Wed 21 Oct

Nwabisa Mlandu
University of Cape Town

Speaker Bio
I am currently doing my Master’s degree in Neuropsychology at the University of Cape Town (UCT). I’m hoping to become a clinical neuropsychologist and open my own memory clinic one day that also provides services to underserved rural communities in South Africa. My research interest lie in cross-cultural neuropsychology, particularly in the development of tests that take context and cultural differences into consideration. I am also interested in epilepsy research, rehabilitation and ways in which to increase quality of life in patients with incurable neurological disorders.
While I was completing my Honours degree in Psychology in 2019, I also worked as a tutor in the Psychology Department at UCT and as a research assistant for two independent studies. One study investigated non-adherence to HIV medication in a local clinic, and entailed the collection of both qualitative and quantitative data. The other study was quantitative and focused on the neuropsychological functioning and MRI findings in patients with HIV in order to understand how HIV encephalopathy affects their memory and behaviour.
In my spare time I enjoy exploring different art galleries and museums because I love the intersection of art with history.

‘Detecting Cultural Influences on Social Cognition: The South African-Adapted NEmo Test Battery’
The psychological construct of social cognition comprises several distinct forms of mental processing that are essential for healthy interpersonal relations. Two separate and hierarchically inferior constructs, emotion recognition and theory of mind (ToM), are central to social cognition and have been the subject of intense neuroscientific study. Although these constructs are universal, numerous studies have shown that cultural-linguistic influences might affect expression of social cognitive abilities in these domains. Given the importance of intact emotion recognition and ToM for adaptive functioning, it is imperative for local research to describe possible cultural and linguistic influences on their expression and to ensure that tools used to assess them are contextually appropriate. In this study, I evaluated a South African-adapted version of the NEmo battery, a newly developed battery by the Swiss Epilepsy Centre. The tasks on the NEmo test battery were translated from their original German into English, and South African faces and voices replaced the original Swiss faces and voices as stimuli for the emotion recognition tasks. South African university students (N = 40; age M = 22.14 ± 3.84 years) completed the NEmo test battery and other standardized cognitive tests. English-speakers and Afrikaans-speakers performed significantly better on tasks assessing ToM than Xhosa-speakers. This suggests that culture influences the expression of this construct. Future research needs to ensure these tasks are adapted to Xhosa to ensure that social cognition is reliably measured in this language group.

Alyx Shepherd
University of California San Diego

Speaker Bio
Alyx Shepherd is the research coordinator for the Women Inflammation and Tau Study (WITS) at UCSDs Altman Clinical and Translation Research Institute. She obtained her undergraduate degree from California State University of Fullerton in three years with a double major in Anthropology and Ethnic Diversities Studies and the goal of becoming an archaeologist. However, an unexpected and life-altering health condition set her on her somewhat unconventional and mostly kismet path toward medicine and neuroscience research.
Her experience in research has been primarily Alzheimer’s and dementia; as well as TBI, fMRI, and neurorehabilitation. These fields of research hold her interest because of the vital necessity for breakthroughs in these areas for underrepresented and marginalized communities. She has spent time as a student at the University of Chiang Mai in Thailand studying the displaced hill tribes of Northern Thailand and teaching inner-city high school students in Medellin, Colombia.
She is the creator and host of the Angry Black Woman Podcast, a podcast that highlights the black American Experience and integrates mental health and mindfulness. In her free time, she enjoys studying foreign languages, writing short screenplays, gardening and long hikes with her pup.

‘Diversity-Focused Recruitment in Neuroscience Research and the Potential Impact on Data Quality’
Pathways to research and medicine can be obscure and this is markedly true for underrepresented populations. It is imperative to not only diversify researchers but also ensure diversity-focused recruitment by embedding diversity and inclusion into research culture. Research has shown that preventative approaches to cognitive decline include social interaction and diet and exercise. My work as a research assistant and office manager at a neurological office piqued my interest in therapeutic interventions in Alzheimer’s. Fostering that interest, I joined a study that aimed to study how Internet-based conversational Engagement impacted the cognitive functions of socially isolated older adults. The study was written to recruit an 80% African American population in an area that simply could not support these numbers. This was something that immediately stood out to me when I began the study and it remained the constant concern throughout.
Methods: In this 12-Month long study eligible participants were randomized to either the intervention or control group. The intervention group received 30-Minute video calls 4 days a week for 6 months then 2 days a week for 6 months to study completion. The control group received 1 weekly phone call that included a fun-fact as a retention method to keep them engaged in the study.
The preliminary results of the study were promising in terms of the main cognitive aims and were expected to continue this trend. The concerns for diversity arose when it became evident that while chat-staff was well trained in the intervention methods they were not trained to work with diverse populations. Thus, many of them found it difficult to connect with the African American participants that were recruited. I raised my concerns about the impact this would have on both our African-American participants and overall study data with the principal investigator and we outlined a plan for how to address these concerns. The need for diversely trained researchers is highlighted here and needs to continue to be highlighted across disciplines, borders, and school curriculums.

Session 4 – Wed 28 Oct

Speakers TBC

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