Julia Ravey

Julia Ravey (2nd Year student)

I have just completed my first year of the four year PhD programme, undertaking three individual three month rotation projects within the Unit.

I was always attracted to PhD programmes which included a preliminary rotation year as I wanted to experience a variety of projects prior to a 3 year commitment. Additionally, I saw this year as an opportunity to improve my research skills and extend my repertoire of laboratory techniques.

Research at the Unit covers all aspects regarding Prion Diseases and related dementias, spanning from investigating the basic biology of prions to exploring potential therapeutic interventions for affected patients. This has allowed me to acquire an in-depth knowledge about these diseases whilst pin-pointing the research areas I felt suited me best.

Additionally, the common goal shared across the unit helped me think about how I could integrate different disciplines of biology into my final PhD project through collaboration. My rotation projects included exploring the epigenetics of sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), studying mouse models of Alzheimer’s Disease and investigating small molecule therapeutics of prion infectivity in vitro.

Alongside these projects, additional training provided throughout the year aided my growth as a scientist. I gained computational skills in programming and coding, basic neuroscience knowledge from studying an MSc Module and competence in applying statistics.

Overall, this year has improved my independence in the lab and confidence presenting my research whilst granting me the opportunity to fully integrate into the Unit.


Madeleine Reilly

Madeleine Reilly (2nd Year student)

My research focusses on neurotoxicity in prion disease. To understand toxicity in the disease I have developed a high content multi-parametric fluorescent imaging assay for prion-induced toxic phenotypes in primary neuronal cultures. We will now use this assay to probe toxicity of brain material taken from mice at different stages of prion infection to identify toxic PrP conversion products and understand the mechanism by which they induce neurodegeneration. The Prion Unit is a great place to immerse in cutting edge research, learn from experts in the field and develop your research repertoire. We are closely linked to the Institute of Neurology as well as other UCL centres and UCL offer students exciting and innovative courses to go along with their research. This year, for example, I took an in depth MatLab programming course, which opened new avenues for my project. Plus, we are located in London, the research hub of the UK and a vibrant, cosmopolitan and cultural city.


David Thomas

David Thomas (3rd Year student)

I am working on a PhD project investigating the potential role of cell surface amyloid-β receptors in Alzheimer’s disease, using in vitro and cellular binding assays. In my time here I have been impressed by the interdisciplinary ethos, which encourages students to learn and apply a wide variety of techniques to their project. Collaboration between groups is abundant, so there is always the potential to use techniques optimised by other researchers in the unit – you just need to ask! Overall, this is an excellent environment for confident, independent students to carry out a PhD


Alexandra Philiastides

Alexandra Philiastides (4th Year student)

I am a final year PhD student at the MRC Prion Unit. My project, which is mainly cell culture-based, focusses on understanding selective neuronal vulnerability in prion disease. My PhD experience so far has been very interesting but also challenging. I was given the opportunity to learn a large number of laboratory techniques as well as critical thinking and study skills. The Unit is an environment that encourages students to reach their full potential in both the practical and theoretical aspects of their area of research.