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Two early career scientists have used their DPUK funding to pursue international dementia research.

A calm ocean with no waves and a clear sky.
Early career researchers pursue international dementia research thanks to DPUK funding

Dr Luke Whiley and Dr Yu-Tzu Wu each won a DPUK early career research grant in 2018. At the end of the following year, both scientists had taken up opportunities which took them to exciting frontiers – in their respective fields, and on a personal level.

Dr Luke Whiley is establishing a lab in Australia to investigate the chemical signatures of dementia and Dr Yu_Tzu is working with the World Health Organisation on its forthcoming report on healthy ageing. The two study areas represent two very current, and different, research fields in dementia today.

Chemical signatures of dementia

Dr Luke Whiley’s research focuses on the uncovering the chemical signatures of dementia. Finding its elusive early signs is one of the biggest challenges for dementia researchers. Big population-based studies are extremely relevant. Having held a number of lab-based positions previously, Luke used his grant to improve his techniques for working with population-scale datasets. The skills he learnt set him up with the experience and know-how to obtain his current research position. Luke is now establishing a new lab in Murdoch University, Perth, working with Australian population cohorts. Find out more about his research here.

There is excitement and urgency to my work in this field. It does feel very rewarding when you can add to the literature in the area and advance our understanding of disease. There is still so much about metabolism of the brain and its links with dementia that is still undiscovered.
- Dr Luke Whiley, lecturer at Murdoch University, Perth, Australia

With more and more cohorts storing biosample data, Luke’s DPUK grant has set him up with skills that are current for his field. DPUK researchers offers a range of other opportunities to improve skills in big data.

How can environment support brain health

Dr Yu-Tzu Wu used her ECR grant to travel to China to develop new methods for understanding our environment’s role in brain health. Strategies to prevent and delay dementia are an key focus for health policymakers worldwide and the role of the local environment is an important factor. Dr Wu found that older people who live far from services such as post offices and shops were have a higher risk of dementia, even after adjusting for socioeconomic factors. Her DPUK-funded study attracted the interest of the World Health Organisation (WHO) who are now working with Dr Wu on a forthcoming WHO report on healthy ageing. Find out more about her research here.

The ECR grant enabled me to travel to China and to have first-hand experience on how older people interact with their local environment in daily life. It was an exciting trip, which provides valuable information on critical issues related to environmental changes and population ageing in different areas. The next steps for me are to expand my research and apply the methods developed from this study to other cohort studies. I'm looking forward to develop international collaborations with other research teams who are interested in this topic. - Dr Yu-Tzu Wu, post-doctoral researcher at Kings College London

Opportunities for early career researchers

DPUK’s ECR grant scheme was specifically designed to support junior researchers taking new steps in their careers. The scheme is now closed - DPUK’s focus for ECR development is its datathon series and Data Portal supportBe the first to know when applications open for the 2020 datathons. 

DPUK supports early career researchers with a range of resources for dementia research.

Read Luke Whiley's perspective on taking new opportunities in 2020.