Every year, the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences and Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging recruit a new cohort of engagement ambassadors.
These ambassadors follow a training programme which introduces them to the concept of engagement with research, and equips them with skills in public speaking, narrative, generating ideas for activities, and communicating about animal research, among other things. They also commit to taking part in at least one public engagement activity.
These are our ambassadors for 2024:
Lara Bolte is a DPhil student in Psychiatry. 'My research focuses on the interplay of longitudinal changes in white matter integrity, cognition, and clinical outcomes during the early stages of psychosis. Prior to starting my DPhil, I worked on other neurological and psychiatric disorders including different forms of dementia and epilepsy. I am excited to be an engagement ambassador because I want to help bridge the gap between science and "the real world" and believe that making scientific progress more available, communicating with the public, and valuing their input will get us closer to reaching that goal.'
SAMANTHA DE SILVA
Samantha de Silva is an honorary research associate and consultant ophthalmologist. 'My research focuses on using real world clinical data and large scale biomedical databases to interrogate genotype-phenotype correlations and disease mechanisms in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and inherited retinal diseases, and assess treatment delivery and response in common retinal diseases. Communication is vital in research in recruiting patients to clinical trials, forging collaborations and disseminating our findings to patients, carers and funders. I am honoured to be an engagement ambassador and am excited to develop these skills further.
Rasha Elghaba is a postdoctoral neuroscientist. 'I research the intricacies of the brain, focusing on striatal microcircuits and neurotransmitter dynamics in Parkinson's disease. As an engagement ambassador, I aim to bridge the gap between my research and the public, emphasising the importance of neuroscience. By communicating the significance of my work, I hope to enhance understanding, foster scientific literacy, and garner support for ongoing research in neurological disorders.
Polytimi Frangou is a postdoc in the Stagg research group. 'My research looks into the role of brain chemicals in interpreting the world around us. I am particularly interested in what goes wrong when patients experience visual hallucinations and in developing new treatments that can improve their quality of life. Being an ambassador offers great opportunities to share what being a neuroscientist is like with children and inspire them to follow a career in STEM. I look forward to the excellent training programme that is planned for us this year!'
Eugénie La Grange
Eugénie La Grange is the Executive Assistant to some senior staff members at WIN, including Heidi Johansen-Berg and Stuart Clare. 'I'm involved with a broad range of administrative tasks within WIN and I work with a lot of the core staff team members to ensure that the day-to-day operations of the centre are managed efficiently. I was motivated to be an Engagement Ambassador as I am inspired by the passion, dedication, hard work, and scientific excellence that is incorporated by the students, researchers, and PIs at the centre. I believe that the research being performed here will continue to have a positive impact on the broader scientific landscape and I want to do my best to help inspire more people to pursue a path of scientific discovery and innovation.'
Sarah Schreiber is an MRes student working in WIN's Pain and Aversive Learning Lab. 'My research focuses on the relationship between sleep and pain avoidance learning. I use neuroimaging to study brain activity during sleep and wakefulness to understand how learned information is reorganised during sleep. I'm excited to share my enthusiasm for science with everyone and to be part of a team working to make research more accessible and inclusive.'
Faye Tabone is a Research Assistant in NDCN, primarily involved in the development and validation of new tools to assess cognitive, visual, and motor impairments post-stroke. 'I applied to be an ambassador because I strongly believe in collaborating with patients to make our research truly impactful. Additionally, ensuring that our research not only addresses real-world needs but is also communicated effectively to a broader audience in an engaging manner.'
Rebecca Willis is a DPhil student in the WIN Vision Group. 'I'm investigating how the brain changes when children with a Lazy Eye receive Patching Therapy. I'm really excited to be an engagement ambassador this year. I think that working with the public to make our research relevant and accessible is really important!'