UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology


Selina Wray

What colleagues said about Selina: Inspirational career journey and working endlessly to irradicate inequalities. 

Overview of current position and main responsibilities

I am Professor of Molecular Neuroscience in the Department of Neurodegenerative Disease.  I lead a group using stem cell models to improve our understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease and Frontotemporal Dementia.  My main responsibilities are running the lab – working with the students, technicians and post docs in the group to help with progress their projects, through to lab management and organisation.  Additionally, I contribute to the teaching of several MSc courses at the Institute and also work closely with one of our main funders, Alzheimer’s Research UK, to help with their fundraising and awareness raising activities.

What was you career path to this position and subject area?

I studied biochemistry as an undergraduate which is where I first became interested in Alzheimer’s Disease.  After graduation, I moved to the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London to do my PhD in Diane Hanger’s group.  In 2008 John Hardy moved back to the UK after 20+ years in the US to set up his group at the IoN – this coincided with the end of my PhD and I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to work with a world leader in Alzheimer’s research.  I moved here in 2009 as a poastdoc, and never really left!  I set up a new technique here which then went on to form the basis of my own research group.  I have been supported by two fellowships from Alzheimer’s Research UK, and was promoted to Professor in 2020.

Do you feel you have a good work/life balance? Why?

Overall, yes.  I really appreciate the ability to work flexibly in academia, which means I can fit in my life around work.  Sometimes there will be busy periods with deadlines etc that require weekend or evening work, but equally if I need to start later/finish earlier on a particular day I can usually do that without problem.  I have my own hobbies and interests outside work and these are non-negotiable to me for my well-being, so I’m self disciplined and organise my time so I can always fit them in!  It hasn’t always been this way, for a long time I was primary carer for my dad and spent every weekend travelling back to Yorkshire to look after him, but even then I always managed to find time to take a break and do something I enjoy!

Who has inspired your career?

So many people – I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside amazing scientists at all levels who have inspired me with their dedication and drive to pushing science forward.  As well as other scientists I’ve met many research participants through the support groups at IoN and have always found those interactions really inspiring, that people will selflessly fundraise, lobby, and directly participate in research to enable our work is really humbling.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

To try and stay focussed on the bigger picture – sometimes its hard to not let the small stuff get to you – grant rejections, paper rejections etc – but although they might seem huge in that moment, its good to be able to put it in context of the bigger picture where its impact is probably minimal.  Sometimes I still need other people to help me with this!  Which would be my second piece of advice, seek out and establish a good support network as early as possible, having people who will celebrate your achievement and commiserate when things don’t go to plan really helps!

What is the best thing about working at IoN?

The people – on a professional level, I really like working in an environment where clinical and pre-clinical research co exist: it seeds ideas that are truly focussed on translation and keeps the mission of the IoN – to help patients – at the forefront of everything we do.  And on a personal level, I’ve met some of my really close friends through working here!