This week’s talk saw Kelvin Dempster discuss his research at laboratories across the globe and his plans for the future. Kelvin is now a researcher at Francis Crick after an undergraduate degree at St. Andrews University.
After a quick introduction, Kelvin dived into his research during his time in Japan for a summer internship at the University of Tokyo. Based on the research he aided, he discussed with clarity the regulation of locomotion (movement) in fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) larvae. Locomotion involves the movement of the larvae either forwards and backwards through waves of electrical signals along the larvae’s body through specific glutamatergic interneurons. Using imaging techniques, Kelvin showed how these interneurons and their related motor neurons regulate movement using videos and images, aiding the explanation of the specialist details.
This awareness of his mixed audience continued as Kelvin moved onto his research placement at Janelia where he helped develop a biomolecular technique to study olfactory learning. He outlined the understanding of learning, bring everyone up to speed in the process, and explored how Rhodopsin Cyclases can be used to regulate the biochemistry of learning when exposed to coloured light. This application of optogenetics (using light-sensitive genes) was unlike what I had seen before and was fascinating to see it applied in such a way.
This intrigue continued with the discussion of Kelvin’s current research into using mice as models for developmental epilepsy in this case caused by a deficient CDKL5 (Cyclase dependant kinase-like 5) receptor. Kelvin stressed the importance of understanding this deficiency, as it’s an understudied condition but a relatively frequent cause of epilepsy in children. Hence his research using mice models into the role of CDKL5 in synapse plasticity regulation, focusing on the inhibition-excitation balance in neurons, for now, will be vital for treatments of many children.
This fascinating talk was rounded out by an informal discussion afterwards looking about the finer details of his research leading on to advice for students looking to move into research. The tips and pointers he gave regarding choosing research opportunities and finding them, demonstrated how you need to be proactive in taking the opportunities however, as demonstrated by the importance of his research it can be highly rewarding.
If you want to watch Kelvin’s talk then simply join DUNE via the Durham SU page where you will get access to this and all other DUNE talks/discussions.