|Dr Laura Winchester is Alzheimer's UK Research Fellow and Psychiatry departmental lead for Athena Swan.|
Tell us a little about yourself and what attracted you to studying/working at the University of Oxford?
I am a research fellow interested in neurodegenerative diseases and how they can be better understood using genomic data. My background is in bioinformatics and I am focused on the application of large-scale multi-omics datasets to better understand disease variants and therapeutics. I have been working at Oxford University for almost 20 years as a research assistant, student and post doc.
What is your vision for the team/project/research you study/work with?
My research covers both dementia risk factors and the discovery and development of fluid biomarkers. In particular, I am interested in how we can use machine learning approaches to discover new proteomic biomarkers for Parkinson’s Disease.
My fellowship with Alzheimer’s Research UK is about understanding the relationship between iron and dementia, looking at both changes in blood and in the brain and how these relate to dementia progression. In the future it would be great to be able to expand this research with new team members of my own.
What is currently at the top of your To-Do List?
I am the departmental Athena Swan lead and this year we are preparing to resubmit our Athena Swan application. I am excited to be keeping the application up to date with all the latest activities from the new People and Culture committee. We have just reached the end of a month of activities linked to raising menopause awareness and are now focused on LGBTQ+ History month. Gender equality initiatives in the department have helped improve female representation in senior roles in the department but in the coming years, I would like to see this increase at both Principal Investigator and Professor levels across Medical Sciences.
How did you get to where you are today?
I have been lucky to move from bench work to bioinformatics analysis. I did my DPhil in Clinical Medicine which has allowed me to pick up techniques useful across fields and diseases. Each environment has had some great colleagues and supervisors willing to help me learn new skills and progress. However, support in Psychiatry from maternity leave to help with grant applications has helped me move from a post doc to a lead within our Translational Neuroscience and Dementia Research team.
Who or what inspires you?
Since I spent my afternoon extracting DNA from strawberries with my son’s class I’m going to pick one of the obvious, but very important female scientists Rosalind Franklin.
If you were not in your study programme/job currently, what would you like to be doing?
No dramatic career changes for me but I would very much like to be somewhere, hot, sunny and quiet with a good book.