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We're delighted to introduce our new cohort of public engagement ambassadors for 2022.

Researcher in yellow T-shirt showing a model pink brain to a boy in a blue top. © Ian Wallman

Every year, the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences and Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging recruit a new cohort of public engagement ambassadors. 

These ambassadors follow a training programme which introduces them to the concept of public 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 2022:

Giorgos Baskozos

Giorgos Baskozos is a bioinformatician working as a post-doctoral researcher in clinical neurosciences. His main research interest lies in the bioinformatics of neuropathic pain including genetics, transcriptomics, functional genomics and predictive modelling. Public engagement is an integral part of science as science that remains unknown and does not engage with public need cannot be really useful to society. Involving patients in research is crucial in order to align it with their needs and priorities. Building models and working with big data requires an approach that is both transparent and interpretable in order to produce outcomes that are relevant and useful.

Merethe Blandhol

Merethe Blandhol is a research assistant working in the Psychopharmacology and Emotion Research Lab in the Department of Psychiatry. She works on projects looking at new potential treatments for depression by investigating how emotional information is processed in the brain. Before this, she completed her MSc in Psychological Research at the University of Oxford, looking at sustained attention and fatigue across the lifespan. Through public engagement Merethe hopes to make science and research more inclusive and accessible to a wider group of people.

Sankalp Garud

Sankalp Garud is a DPhil candidate in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. His research focuses on how we choose and initiate our social relationships like friendships. He studies how the background environment might impact our propensity to form friendships, and what regions in the brain might support such decisions. He likes public engagement to communicate the exciting discoveries of psychologists and neuroscientists with people interested in learning about the mind and the brain.

Lucy Jobbins

Lucy Jobbins is a research assistant in the Heart and Brain Group in the Department of Psychiatry. She leads participant testing, which combines MRI, vascular ultrasound, and cognitive testing to examine the relationship between the heart and brain as people age. She is passionate about finding novel targets for intervention in dementia. During her BSc and MSc, she worked closely with people with dementia to produce multiple projects such as co-producing a peer support intervention and a poetry project. She is excited to be a Public Engagement Ambassador to improve understanding of dementia and end the stigma about the disease.

Claire Johnson

Claire Johnson is a Clinical Neurosciences DPhil student and Clarendon Scholar seeking to understand the underlying immunopathology of the autoimmune neurodegenerative diseases CIDP and GBS. She aims to identify the type of B cells responsible for generating pathogenic autoantibodies driving a highly aggressive subtype of the disease. The twin sister of a recovered CIDP patient herself, Claire is keen to engage with patients and their family members, provide support, and help them to better understand the disease and treatment options. She is also particularly passionate about encouraging women to pursue careers in STEM, having previously worked with underprivileged school-aged girls from inner-city Detroit at annual science symposiums at her alma mater, The University of Michigan.

Daniel Kor

Daniel Kor is a DPhil student in Clinical Neurosciences in the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging. His research seeks to explain the biological basis of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). He does this by marrying microscope data with MRI images. As a Public Engagement Ambassador, he would like to make a small but lasting impact on school students who may not have had the necessary resources to learn science, or who may not have had a positive experience with science. He would like to show how real science is, and how it can be used to study really cool phenomena.

Morgan Mitchell

Morgan Mitchell is a research assistant in the Plasticity Group at the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging. Her research explores the use of sound (auditory stimulation) during sleep as an intervention to boost the memory consolidation processes underlying the learning and relearning of movement for stroke rehabilitation patients. Having been involved in public engagement projects and community-based research positions previously, Morgan is excited about engaging a range of different audiences in neuroscience research in a way that presents complex concepts as both fun and relevant. In turn, she is also passionate about making sure that academic research becomes more representative of the surrounding community.

Raihaan Patel

Raihaan Patel is a postdoctoral researcher in the Heart and Brain Group. Raihaan's research aims to understand how the co-occurrence of multiple chronic health conditions, termed multi-morbidity, impacts neuroanatomy, cognitive decline, and dementia risk. As a Public Engagement Ambassador, Raihaan hopes to build relationships with the public to better communicate how neuroscience research can impact public health.

Lucy Starling

Lucy Starling is a research assistant in the Vision Group at the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, primarily assisting with a research project that aims to understand the capacity for visual rehabilitation after stroke. She has taken part in public engagement activities in the past, including supporting a ‘Soapbox Science’ event in York, which allowed female scientists to share their research with the general public. She is particularly interested in improving engagement with science in women and girls, as well as young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Jussi Tolonen

Jussi Tolonen is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow in Esther Becker’s lab at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences. As a medical doctor specialising in child neurology, he is curious about the development of the cerebellum, the region of the brain that controls our movements. To uncover key genes and signalling pathways in rare genetic movement disorders affecting children, he is using stem cells to create three-dimensional models of the cerebellum called organoids or 'mini-brains'. Jussi became a Public Engagement Ambassador to increase awareness of rare diseases.

Katie Yoganathan

Katie Yoganathan is a DPhil student and neurology registrar, interested in identifying markers of disease activity for the early detection of Motor Neuron Disease (MND). She aims to combine MEG, functional MRI and surface EMG techniques to explore the aberrant connectivity pathways in MND patients. This combination is hoped to offer a uniquely motor system-wide assessment, with the ultimate aim of developing preventative strategies in pre-symptomatic genetically at-risk populations. Through public engagement ventures, she hopes to effectively communicate her academic pursuits, and stimulate interest into an area that is very close to her heart.  

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