UCL News


7 Questions with Francisco Sacadura

23 November 2017

Francisco Sacadura is a Neuroscience student from Portugal who, after taking part in the Laidlaw Research and Leadership Programme has been nominated to attend the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.

Francisco Sacadura pic

com/" target="_self">Laidlaw Research and Leadership Programme has been nominated by UCL and the Royal Society to attend the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.

1. Why you are interested in this subject and what do you plan to do in the future?

Well I really feel that the question should really be Why isn't everyone interested in Neuroscience? Personally, I believe everyone, scientists or not, will be bitten by the neuroscience bug sooner or later since Neuroscience is so deeply rooted in who we are, in our personality and individuality, our origins and future… We are our brains and if we are ever going to understand who we are, we must understand our brains.

I've been interested in neuroscience since I saw a documentary series called Through the Wormhole when I was 14. Later I started attending talks at The Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, a renowned neuroscience institute in Lisbon near where I live. There I met John O'Keefe, the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine who works at UCL, and Adam Kampff, a laboratory leader in Champalimaud who was moving to UCL and that inspired me to apply for my MSci here.

In the future, I plan to pursue my dream of understanding how the brain works by undertaking a PhD in the UK or USA.

2. What is the most interesting thing you've done, seen or got involved with while at UCL?

While talking to one of the Neuroscience professors (Prof Haggard) I told him I planned to do a research internship at UCL over the summer. He told me about this new Laidlaw Research and Leadership Programme, a very interesting scholarship that provides promising year 1 students with the opportunity to take on a 6-week long research internship over the summer, as well as the opportunity to develop leadership skills through a series of workshops, mentoring and project management. I applied and managed to get a place working with Prof Haggard on a project related to pain perception.

It was challenging, for example, to collect the data we had to repeat the same 3 hour-long experiment 34 times which was exhausting. Despite being exhausted by the end of the internship, I enjoyed every single moment of it and learned a lot.

3. What have you enjoyed most from the Laidlaw Research and Leadership Programme?

The most interesting aspect was the opportunity to organize a workshop about the research we were doing for PhD students from the Max Planck Institute in Germany. It was very rewarding to present our project to them and very amusing to see their reactions when they found out we were undergraduate students teaching doctoral students!

Experiencing the life of a researcher in the first person and having the opportunity to play an active role in every aspect of a real scientific experiment further strengthened my dream to become a neuroscientist and taught me essential skills to succeed in academia; perseverance, critical thinking, team work and searching the literature.

The hard work culminated in three really great things happening to me:

1. I presented a poster at The Brain Prize Meeting 2017, where I met the 2017 Brain Prize Winners (considered the Nobel Prize of Neuroscience).

2. I attended Neuroscience 2017 in Washington DC, the biggest neuroscience meeting in the world, where I met very famous and inspiring neuroscientists from across the globe.

3. I have been nominated by UCL and the Royal Society for the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, a chance to spend one week in Lindau, Germany, with 30 Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine.

It has been a fantastic journey and I'll be eternally grateful to the Laidlaw Scholarship for providing me with these unique opportunities and for opening so many doors for my future career. Hence, I would definitely recommend any ambitious, high achieving student to apply for the Laidlaw Research and Leadership Programme.

· Applications are open for first year undergraduate students until 28 January 2018. Find out more on the Laidlaw website: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/laidlaw-scholarships

4. Have you discovered any 'hidden gems' during your time at UCL?

The 7th floor of the UCL Computer department offers an astonishing view which really motivates you for a quiet study evening. Also, the live music nights at the Print Room Café are magical and rewarding after a day of hard work.

5. Give us your top three things to do/see/go to in London

  1. Laugh until you cry (I did!) at the play The Play That Goes Wrong, the most brilliant, hilarious theatre comedy I've ever seen.
  2. Go ice skating in the evening at the Natural History Museum and be stunned by the magical Christmas lights and the magnificent museum. And don't forget to treat yourself with a nice hot chocolate from the cafeteria.
  3. Have a memorable day at the Madame Tussauds London where, for one day and one day only, you get the chance to meet all the icons you ever dreamed about. And don't forget your camera because you're going to take pictures, lots of pictures!

6. If you were Provost for the day, what one thing would you do?

I would organize a poster presentation where all the staff across all the UCL institutes would showcase their latest research to the students thereby breaching the gap between students and staff.

I would also create more scholarships and funding opportunities for undergraduate research, especially for first year students where the Laidlaw Programme is the only scholarship available. The Laidlaw Programme was a real pioneer and should be followed by other similar programmes to increase the opportunities and chances of success for UCL students.

7. What would it surprise people to know about you?

I have a twin brother studying psychology in Lisbon. Despite being twins, we look nothing alike and have completely different preferences for nearly everything. This is a perfect case in which being different is actually beneficial and we do get along very well.

· If you're an undergraduate and involved in any research at UCL - apply for Posters in Parliament to showcase your research and develop public engagement and post presentation skills.