By Holly Giles | Deputy Editor
For most people it is not until completion of a PhD that they will have the anticipated moment of seeing their name as the lead author of a research paper. It is an elusive moment that many scientists strive towards, but for student Amy Murray this moment has already happened. Aged 21, Murray is 7 years younger than the average age for this achievement.
Amy Murray is an undergraduate student at Cardiff University who completed a placement year at CUBRIC (Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre) as part of her neuroscience degree. Here she worked on a study with Dr Thomas Lancaster and Dr Hannah Chandler looking at the links between the genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s and the effect on the size of key brain structures.
The study, published in the journal Neurobiology of Ageing, found that the polygenic risk of Alzheimer’s disease is linked to hippocampus and amygdala volume. This finding could help improve the accuracy of models looking at Alzheimer’s disease risk and may provide additional therapeutic windows in future studies into the prevention and treatment of the disease.
Reflecting on the news of her publication Murray said:
“When my supervisors said we should submit the paper for journal publication I didn’t really know how unusual it was for a student to be a first author – I just thought ‘Well, this will be pretty cool and it’ll be good for my CV’. When I got the email to say it would be published, I danced around the room and called my mum. The first thing she said was ‘my daughter’s going to be famous’ – and I had to say ‘No mum, calm down, I’m not going to be famous quite yet.”
Speaking to Cardiff University, Murray also told of her experience as a PTY student: “I have advanced academically and personally in leaps and bounds from the support and opportunities afforded to me by Tom and Hannah – and I’ve genuinely loved learning and actively processing data, coding, and adding to the published paper. I loved working on every aspect of the study – and it’s really made me want to do more hands-on research.”
When asked what advice she would give to people considering a PTY, Murray told Gair Rhydd:
“For those considering a PTY or research: The only way to know if you want to train in that field or do that type of work is to give it a try… but be sure to do your research on potential supervisors. The skills and methods they use will be implemented in your research, so if you’re not into animal studies, don’t choose a supervisor who uses animal models in their research. Try to get the most out of your experience – any opportunities that come up, take them! Although I was still an undergrad while doing the research project, I would say that my research experience involved quite a big change in attitude to how I work and manage my time compared to that as a student, but you can quite quickly learn and adapt as you go.”
Amy is currently in the final year of her degree, after which she hopes to undertake a PhD into the genetic basis of changes in the brain seen in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. With this incredible start to her career it is clear she is destined for great things, both in Cardiff and beyond.