UCL Faculty of Life Sciences


Bogue Fellowship Report: Alice Leavey

9 May 2023

Alice Leavey was recently awarded a Bogue Fellowship. This scholarship programme supports post-doctoral researchers and postgraduate research students in the Life and Biomedical Sciences to visit research institutions and laboratories in the US.

Alice Leavey and colleagues from the Blackburn Lab in the University of Florida.

Alice is a PhD student in the Research Department of Cell and Developmental Biology (UCL Division of Biosciences). Alice's project is on the evolution of musculoskeletal anatomy and locomotor mode in frogs. 

During her time at the Blackburn Lab (University of Florida), Alice worked primarily in the Research and Collections building for the Florida Museum of Natural History. In order to micro-CT scan specimens, she also worked occasionally in the Nanoscale Research Facility (NRF). She received formal training in how to use the Phoenix V|tome|x CT scanner, reconstruction software, advanced digital dissection software and animation software. Alice also received formal training in how to prepare museum specimens for soft-tissue scanning – using contrast-enhancing agents (Lugols). Although her work is primarily focused on amphibians, she was also shown how to carry out this process for fish, reptiles and small mammals.

Alice said of her time in the US: "The culture here is very different in that it is a lot more friendly and sociable, which is something I will specifically look for in a future job. On Friday nights, we would all visit a local brewery and try out the different food trucks. Once a month, there was a local nature walk organised by museum students and a board games night hosted by the NRF, both of which I would always attend. I got to see the behind-the-scenes of working within a museum and I also got to see the hiring process for a new mammal curator. I found it very useful to be on the other side of the hiring process (all PhD students discuss the candidates and submit a vote for which ones they liked the most) and to see what people perceive as a good job candidate in academia."

She adds: "Generally, working in Florida has been really fun. Studying at an American university has its stereotypes and the University of Florida is about as stereotypical as it gets (in a good way). I loved the culture – how much everyone loves their university, wears their merchandise and celebrates their campus. I organised a lab outing to go watch a baseball game, went kayaking down Ichetucknee River with a lab mate and saw manatees, visited the wetlands to see alligators and watched movies together in the back garden of one of the supervisors every Sunday. I had multiple opportunities for volunteering and outreach – I found fossils from 6 million years ago at a local dig site with the vertebrate palaeontology helped to plant trees and restore the woods opposite the building, and talked to the public about my research at the public museum event ‘Girls Do Science’. I really made the most out of my time here and spent hardly any time in my accommodation." 

This period also gave Alice the opportunity to travel around America. She began her trip by spending a week in Texas at the largest conference in her field before starting her fellowship. The week after completing her time in Florida, she visited New York City, where she saw the usual tourist attractions and met with the herpetology curator for a back-stage tour of the collections thanks to her new connections in Florida.

The deadline for October applications is 3pm on Thursday 26 October 2023. Find out more about the Bogue Fellowships by visiting the link below. 

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