Author: Department of Brain Sciences Communications

Volunteering to support the COVID-19 testing effort

Mariya Chepisheva is a third year PhD student in the Department of Brain Sciences. However, more recently, she has been volunteering in her home country of Bulgaria to support the COVID-19 testing effort. Here, she shares her experiences of working in a clinical lab during the pandemic.

Mariya Chepisheva wearing PPE and working in the clinical laboratory
Mariya Chepisheva

I’m currently in the third year of my PhD. My project concentrates on vestibular perception, postural control and spatial orientation in patients with acute and chronic progressive affections of the central nervous system. In order to answer the questions central to my research, I’m using Virtual Reality (VR), 3D body tracking and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to learn more about the perception of balance and spatial orientation under vestibular guidance.

However, since August, I’ve stepped away from my PhD research to volunteer my expertise as a molecular biologist, so as to provide a small contribution to my community in light of COVID-19. Having various skills in different fields always puts you in a situation where you can and want to help others.

To help meet the demand for COVID-19 related tests, I have been volunteering part-time in a clinical laboratory for biochemical and haematological analysis located in the town hospital of Haskovo, Bulgaria. I am not a first-time volunteer here, as I helped on a full-time basis in the summer of 2017. Back then, I performed biochemical (approximately 35 parameters) and haematological analysis (complete blood count, PTT, aPTT, fibrinogen activity and erythrocyte sedimentation), hormones, tumour markers, ELISA, HIV 1/2, Hepatitis B and C, Syphilis tests.  I remember how afraid of blood I was at the time, and I’m truly proud of myself and how working in a clinical laboratory has totally changed my attitude and erased my fear. Working with thousands of blood samples all day, every day was a step that I took to grow, not only as a molecular biologist broadening my horizons and skills to work with human tissue, but also as a human being helping others.  (more…)

PhD examinations during lockdown

A screenshot of Luigi Montibeller's PhD viva examination
Clockwise from bottom-left: Luigi Montibeller defends his PhD thesis from his home in Trento, Italy; Professor Una Fitzgerald (External Examiner) connecting from Galway; Professor Paolo Muraro in London; Professor Amin Hajitou

A huge congratulations to PhD students in our Department who have completed their PhD vivas remotely during lockdown. (more…)

In profile: Dr Stefano Sandrone, Senior Teaching Fellow

In the latest instalment of our Staff Profile series, we spoke to Senior Teaching Fellow Dr Stefano Sandrone, who was recently awarded a President’s Award for Excellence in Supporting the Student Experience.


Stefano Sandrone
Stefano Sandrone

Introduce yourself – who are you and what do you do? 

I am an Italian neuroscientist, a Senior Teaching Fellow and a Principal Investigator within the Computational, Cognitive and Clinical Neuroimaging Laboratory (C3NL). I also have international leadership roles in research and education. 

When did you join the College and where were you working before this?

In January 2018. Before joining the College, I was a Teaching Fellow at King’s College London, where I completed my PhD and a brief postdoc.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

Mentoring the next generation of neuroscientists. 

And the most challenging?

I like taking challenges.

What do you think is the most important factor in creating an effective and positive learning environment for students?

Four factors: respect, knowledge, enthusiasm and experience. (more…)

In profile: Dawn Tharpe, Section Manager

Dawn Tharpe
Dawn Tharpe

In the latest instalment of our Staff Profile series, we spoke to Dawn Tharpe about her role as a Section Manager and her top tips for working remotely.


Introduce yourself – who are you and what do you do?

My name is Dawn Tharpe and I am Section Manager for the Division of Neurology in the Department of Brain Sciences. (more…)