We are ending the third week of PhD student and Early Career Researcher blog series with Sarah Gregory, PhD student from the University of Edinburgh.  Follow us on Twitter to keep up to date with the series.

 Hi, I’m Sarah and I’m a part time doctoral candidate with the Edinburgh Dementia Prevention group (University of Edinburgh) and a part time study coordinator of the EPAD (European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia) and PREVENT studies. I am also the co-chair of the Assessment and Audit work package of the Scottish Dementia Informatics Platform (SDIP).  I’m in the first year of my PhD which is looking at hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function (our stress system) in midlife and its association to dementia risk. We know that people with Alzheimer’s disease who have high levels of cortisol (stress hormone) have a quicker cognitive decline, and that older adults with high amyloid and high cortisol progress are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. We currently do not know when cortisol becomes important in Alzheimer’s disease, and whether it contributes to risk of developing dementia. I will be using data from the EPAD and PREVENT studies to explore this question. These are two large cohort studies, PREVENT focusing on midlife, and EPAD starting in midlife, which deeply phenotype participants to understand risk trajectories. The studies are both led by Prof Craig Ritchie at the University of Edinburgh and have open data access policies in place which means researchers from around the globe can use the data to answer their research questions.  

Prior to joining the University of Edinburgh I completed my BSc in psychology at the University of Bath, with a placement year in a neuropsychological service for older adults in Newcastle, Australia, and a part time MSc in Mental Health Science Research at University College London, researching experiences of hearing aid use in people with mild cognitive impairment and dementia. My placement year really ignited my passion for working in the field of dementia and was a great opportunity to get real world work experience before graduating. I have worked in mental health and dementia research since 2010, as a data manager, study coordinator and deputy unit manager in West London Mental Health Trust. 

Outside of work I am a member of an NHS research ethics committee, having joined in London in 2014 and transferred up to a Scottish committee in 2017. Every month I join a committee of experts and lay members to discuss studies that researchers are proposing to run in the NHS and provide our opinion. I really recommend becoming a volunteer to early career researchers as you learn so much about how the ethics service operates, have the chance to consider a wide perspective of opinions that you may not otherwise encounter and get to see some of the great research going on outside of your field!

Once I finish my PhD I hope to continue my career in Alzheimer’s disease with a continued focus on dementia prevention research.

 Follow Sarah on Twitter: @GregorySarah

Find out more about the research Sarah’s involved in:

EPAD study: http://ep-ad.org/

PREVENT study: https://preventdementia.co.uk/

Edinburgh Dementia Prevention: http://centrefordementiaprevention.com/


 Read previous blogs here