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Dr Lucy Craggs

 Name: Dr Lucy Craggs


Age range:29

Research institution: Centre for Brain Ageing and Vitality, Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University

Research career length: 8 years

Research Council: Medical Research Council (MRC)

Location: Newcastle, England

Salary: £22-29k

Brief summary of research: Why do blood vessels degenerate with age

School qualifications:
A-levels: Physics, Chemistry, Biology

Qualifications post-school:
BSc in Animal Sciences, University of Nottingham
PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry, University of Nottingham

Career path:
Summer placement within a BBSRC Research Institute between my second and third years of undergraduate study
Industrial CASE funded PhD between Pfizer and BBSRC under supervision of my undergraduate nutrition lecturers
Postdoctoral position in the Centre for Brain Ageing and Vitality at the Institute for Ageing and Health at Newcastle University

Through attending a summer school during her Undergraduate degree, Lucy Craggs discovered what it would be like to study for a PhD , and decided to become a researcher. Lucy’s work on damage to blood vessels in the ageing brain is contributing to our understanding of what causes strokes and dementia in elderly people.

My research investigates why our blood vessels become damaged as we age, what parts of our brain are vulnerable to long term changes in blood flow, and what can be done to prevent this.

To achieve this, over the course of the last year I have performed research in three main laboratory-based projects which will be used to write three scientific papers as part of my own research portfolio. I have also helped with the preparation of three other projects from our research group. During this time, I supervised three undergraduate students and helped with the training of our three PhD students in laboratory techniques. We recently hosted a visit from colleagues from Japan, who trained me in the techniques we will be using as part of our international collaboration.

“I think the science of medicine and disease is incredibly interesting and the idea that I may be finding a new mechanism which could lead to the next anti-stroke drug is incredibly exciting”

I grew up on a farm and always wanted to work with animals, and aspired to be a vet. I chose to study animal science after missing out on a place to study veterinary science. During my undergraduate degree, I was offered a summer placement at the BBSRC funded Silsoe Research Institute, which was where I first considered studying for a PhD. It was this experience and the inspiration of my nutrition lecturers, which led me to embark on my doctorate, investigating whether feeding vitamin D would improve the meat quality of lamb.

I became interested in the way vitamin D affects muscle tissue growth and metabolism, especially in the way that a deficiency of the vitamin in elderly people causes muscle weakness and loss of muscle mass. I applied for a postdoctoral position in the Centre for Brain Ageing and Vitality at the Institute for Ageing and Health at Newcastle University, thinking that my background in nutrition and muscle metabolism would fit in with their ongoing research, but was invited to join the stroke and dementia strand instead on account of my laboratory skills.

I think one of the biggest misconceptions of research is that it takes over your life. As long as you are organised and motivated, then there is no need to be hanging around the labs in the twilight hours. I still find time to play hockey, go to the cinema and spend time in the outdoors with my boyfriend and our two dogs.

My aim is to have my own research funded within two years, and to follow up my fellowship by running my own laboratory. Ultimately I would like to become a Lecturer on the lifestyle effects of healthy ageing, and perhaps one day, a professor.

These ambitions are important, but the biggest motivation for me is knowing that our work isn’t simply about improving knowledge of biology, but finding a way to treat or prevent a disease that can affect anybody, including me.


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