UCL Excellence Fellows 2015-2016.
Dr Jan Janouskovec
Jan is an evolutionary biologist trying to understand big transitions in microbial evolution: how parasites evolved from non-parasitic species, how photosynthesis spread between distantly related microscopic algae, and how our cells acquired small compartments called mitochondria. Jan has taken part in the discovery of new microbes that helped illuminate these ancient events, including the photosynthetic relatives of the malaria parasite, at universities in the Czech Republic, Canada (Vancouver, BC), and the US (San Diego, CA). His current aim is to combine further exploration of microbes with novel computational approaches to provide a broad context for the emergence of diseases and indispensable cellular functions such as respiration and photosynthesis.
Dr Peter Keating (UCL Rosetrees Excellence Fellow)
Peter studies the effects of hearing loss on the developing and adult brain. The complementary goals of his research are to provide basic insight into auditory processing and use these insights to improve auditory function in specific environments or populations where it is compromised. To achieve this, Peter combines computational, behavioural, neurophysiological, and virtual reality techniques to study sound localization. Throughout the lifespan, sound localization is dramatically affected by various forms of hearing loss, including 'glue ear' in children, noise-induced deafness in young adults, and age-related hearing loss in older people. This can impair speech perception in noisy environments, and may negatively affect social integration and educational attainment. Peter is therefore particularly interested in research that can help rehabilitate auditory function in individuals with hearing loss. In 2017, Peter was awarded an Academy of Medical Sciences Springboard Award, and in 2019 Peter was awarded a UKRI Future Leader Fellowship.
Dr Jasper Poort
Jasper investigates how the brain selectively processes behaviourally relevant sensory stimuli. This key skill allows us to turn the constant bombardment on our senses into coherent representations of the environment that can guide our behaviour. It also can contribute to our understanding of neurological conditions that are associated with deficits in the filtering of sensory information. During his PhD at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, and in ongoing work, Jasper studied how the responses of neurons in the primary visual cortex (V1) and higher-level visual areas are modulated when we segment visual images into foreground and background, and when we attend to specific visual objects. At UCL, in a collaboration with Basel University, he uses 2-photon imaging to track responses of populations of V1 cells, to reveal how learning a new task and changing task demands can alter the processing of visual stimuli. The primary visual cortex provides a detailed representation of visual stimulus features, while higher-level areas integrate previous experiences and form more abstract representations of the sensory environment. In new experiments, Jasper will use optical labelling and imaging techniques to characterise how learning modifies interactions between different processing levels, to link the acquisition of new behavioural skills to changes in the pattern of communication between areas of the brain. Jasper is currently a Lecturer at the University of Cambridge.