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Summer Student 2022: Heidi Lloyd-Williams

Summer Student 2022: Heidi Lloyd-Williams

Optimising conditions for neurons using machine learning to study neurodevelopmental diseases

Supervisor name and institution: Dr Anton Nikolaev, University of Sheffield

Project summary:

Currently, neurodevelopmental diseases are mostly studied using animals. The use of patient-derived stem cells to create a human relevant model will reduce the use of animals in the field of neurodevelopmental disorders. However, one limitation of such models is that cultured neurons form random neural circuits – this is particulary a problem for neurodevelopmental disorders such as epilepsy in which the finely tuned balance of connections between neurons plays an important role. This limitation is the main reason why stem cell-derived neuronal circuits cannot be used as an adequate model for neurodevelopmental disorders.

The overall goal of my project is to develop technology of building neural circuits with defined architecture for better understanding of neurodevelopmental diseases such as epilepsy. To achieve this I am developing an platform that pick and place individual neurons in specific positions, make them grow and differentiate in defined directions and regulate the interactions between them.

Animals project will replace: Mice and zebrafish

Get to know Heidi…

Why do you want to participate in animal replacement summer studentship?

I feel strongly about ending the suffering of animals that are used in scientific research and want to contribute to help achieve this.

How will the Summer Student Programme help to kick-start your career as an animal free researcher?

It will be a great experience working in a lab for the summer to develop a new technology. I will be able to understand thoroughly the process of carrying out a research project which is essential for this career. The project will also help me understand the innovative ways we can do research without the use of animals.

Why is research without the use of animals important to you?

Last year, I made the decision to be vegan because of the unnecessary cruelty that animals incur in the food industry. I apply the same philosophy to research. Often, there are alternatives to these cruel experiments and that is why committing to developing these methods further is essential.

How does your project fit in with your degree?

The project will help exercise my laboratory skills and neuroscience/developmental biology knowledge.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

After finishing my degree I hope to do a masters and PhD to further research neurodegenerative diseases using animal free methods.


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Page last modified on July 6, 2022 3:41 pm