Brain Sciences


Dr Sao Bettencourt

Photo of Sao, facing the camera and smiling

How long have you been at UCL and what is your current role?

I joined UCL as a Research Associate eight years ago, in January 2013. I am currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Neurodegenerative Disease and Queen Square Brain Bank, UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology. My current research focuses on brain DNA methylation alterations, their downstream consequences on gene expression, and their role in frontotemporal dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. My work entails both wet lab experiments and bioinformatic data analysis.

What working achievements are you most proud of?

I feel very proud and honoured to have been awarded a fellowship from the Alzheimer's Research UK (ARUK) last year, as well as a research grant from the Multiple System Atrophy Trust. These two awards have given me the chance to develop ideas of my own in collaboration with others and mark the start of my own research group. I am very grateful for all the opportunities and support that I received during my scientific career, and I hope that I will successfully mentor others. I certainly feel very proud of seeing my former and current students thrive.

What is your favourite album, film, and novel?

  • It is rather difficult to name a single album, but “The Very Best of Diana Krall” is definitely a must on my list.
  • From the films that I have been allowed to watch recently, “Trolls” is a favourite – a story about happiness and where “no troll is left behind”!
  • Among my favourite novels is “Blindness” (in Portuguese “Ensaio sobre a cegueira”) by José Saramago.

What do you like best about working in the Faculty of Brain Sciences?

I particularly like the interdisciplinary collaborative environment at the Faculty of Brain Sciences. The faculty is home to some of the world’s most influential academics doing cutting-edge research with a shared goal of improving our understanding of the brain, and solving one of the world’s greatest health challenges that is reducing the global burden of brain diseases.

What are your future goals?

My overarching goal is to achieve a better understanding of the molecular alterations that occur in neurodegenerative diseases, and generate knowledge that will help to improve diagnosis, develop new treatments (as DNA methylation may be reversible), and develop biomarkers to monitor disease progression in life and response to treatments in drug trials. In line with this goal, I also wish to grow my own research group further, and to nurture and expand my network of collaborations to boost scientific discoveries in neurodegeneration.