Ellen Collins is on placement as a Stroke and Brain Haemorrhage Research Support Scientist within the Stroke IMPaCT Project, at Salford Royal. She’s blogged about her work and a fascinating event she is organising.
One in six people in the UK will have a stroke or another neurological disorder at some point in their life.
That’s why research into stroke and other brain diseases is vital – and it’s also essential that people know about these conditions and what’s being done to help.
I’ve helped to organise a Brain Health Day on Saturday 18 March (11am-4pm) at Manchester Central Library, working with colleagues from the international stroke study, Stroke IMPaCT.
It will include interactive stalls, brain games and talks from leading researchers and medical professionals from the pioneering Geoffrey Jefferson Brain Research Centre in Manchester. The event is recommended for people over the age of 14 with an interest in learning about what happens in the brain and will be an exciting opportunity for people to learn about the science in an accessible way – something I am very passionate about.
Inspired by patients
I’m especially excited to have the opportunity to lead a talk with my colleague George Arthur and two stroke survivors, Wendy and Ann.
My conversations with them about how they became patient advisors for research following their strokes, as well as the Stroke IMPaCT participants I’ve met, have been incredibly inspirational. These stories have shown me that patients’ voices must be heard and be seen as the driving force for research and innovation.
Through Brain Health Day, I hope to encourage more people to be involved in research, as well as saying a huge thank you to the current participants in the Stroke IMPaCT study.
My placement, which comes between the second and third years of my cognitive neurosciences and psychology degree at The University of Manchester, offers a really diverse experience and lots of new skills. From laboratory blood processing, working alongside the acute research delivery team (ARDT) to writing participant newsletters and project and event management, I am continuously challenged.
Theory into practice
I’ve also been tasked with completing a rigorous data audit of the Manchester data set and have really enjoyed seeing the theory I learnt from university being used in practice. This has led to my own research project, which will investigate if there are any cardiovascular risk factors and stroke characteristics that relate to cognitive trajectory at six months post stroke.
In my laboratory role, I collect the Stroke IMPaCT blood samples and process them for further immunological analysis. These samples will allow us to determine if there are any correlations between immune function after stroke and post-stroke cognitive decline. This has been particularly useful since my lab experience was massively limited at university, due to the pandemic.
Berlin and more!
Given that Stroke IMPaCT is an international study I’ve had to learn about the logistics of data sharing and working under ethics policies in different countries and have been given the chance to go to Berlin to meet the rest of the international Stroke IMPaCT team.
At university, you’re not always exposed to all the amazing careers that are available in research, especially in the NHS. A placement year can open up a much wider range of job opportunities and I’m sure the skills I have been able to develop in this past year will be invaluable to my postgraduate life.
I’d like to thank the Geoffrey Jefferson Brain Research Centre for hosting my placement, and all my wonderful colleagues who have taught me many valuable skills that I will take forward when I return to university, I feel extremely lucky to have had this experience.