The Healthspan Project UCL
The Healthspan Project opened its first branch in UCL, which hosts the Healthspan Research Assistants (HRA) programme every year within the Institute of Healthy Ageing.
UCL HRA Programme 2021 – 2022
Applications are now open for the 2021 – 2022 HRA programme. Please scroll down for further information.
HRA PROGRAMME 2021 – 2022
Healthspan Research Assistants (HRAs) are passionate or curious about ageing biology. Successful applicants will assist laboratory efforts and experiments within the UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing and gain a deeper understanding of current research into fundamental organismal ageing, age-related diseases and possible interventions against ageing. HRAs will gain laboratory, scientific and interpersonal experience as an active member of a research team within the broad field of ageing research.
Applications are open to UCL undergraduates on any life sciences degree programme and in any year of study. HRAs typically commit up to a maximum of 10 hours per week, which usually takes place during the academic term time. Hours are typically spread across multiple weekdays and occasionally weekends, depending on the nature of research and experimental setups. Please only apply if you believe you are able to make such a commitment. Please note that this position is of a voluntary nature and not currently supported by funding, although supervisors are usually happy to support applications for external funding.
Placement start: October 2021
Placement end: HRAs are encouraged to maintain a long-term placement and should plan their own end date with their supervisor.
Application deadline: 11:59 pm (local London time) 15th September 2021
To apply, please complete the application form at the bottom of this page. Applications will be reviewed together after the deadline, and not on a rolling basis.
This year's host labs
The Niccoli laboratory is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms leading to neuronal cell death in dementia. Dementia's main risk factor is increasing age, and as the population ages the prevalence of this disease has rocketed, making it the leading cause of death in the UK.
Project outline: Covid-19 permitting, HRAs will help with tipping and scoring lifespans and climbing assays for Drosphila models of neurodegeneration. If the project has to be online, it will be data extry and graph production (for lifepsans) or sorting out databases for the laboratory, using existing online databases to callate the information.
Supervisor: Dr Teresa Niccoli
The Alic laboratory is interested in how changes in gene expression, specifically at the level of transcription, can alter animal physiology and improve health and survival in old age.
The Bähler laboratory studies cellular quiescence, ageing and long non-coding RNA function using fission yeast and Turquoise Killifish as model systems. They apply diverse genetic, cellular, and systems-level approaches to analyse the regulation and evolution of genomes, complex ageing-associated processes, and relationships between genotype, phenotype and environment.
The Gems laboratory seeks to understand the biological mechanisms that cause pathologies of ageing, and how such pathologies lead to mortality; and how reduced insulin/IGF-1 signalling and dietary restriction suppress ageing and increase lifespan. Other interests include the mechanisms of organismal death, sex differences in the biology of ageing, the role of the microbiome in ageing, evolutionary conservation of mechanisms of ageing, and bioethical implications of ageing research.
Project outline: The Gems lab has found that insulin/IGF-1 signaling promotes autophagy-dependent conversion of intestinal biomass into yolk, which leads to senescent atrophy of the intestine. HRAs will assist with work investigating the relationship between IIS, autophagy and ageing. HRAs will utilise C. elegans research techniques (e.g. worms handling, genetics, microscopy), molecular biology, cell biology and image-based data analysis.
Supervisor: Dr Kuei Ching Hsiung
The Labbadia laboratory seeks to understand how cells maintain an optimal proteome throughout life and how this is influenced by diet and age. They use C. elegans and mammalian tissue culture models of protein misfolding to identify novel strategies for the suppression of age-associated protein conformational diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's disease.
Project outline: HRAs will be tasked with optimising assays and conditions to explore a novel hypothesis - that mechanical stress promotes the age-related loss of protein homeostasis. This will involve handling C. elegans, reagent preparation, taking fluorescence images of proteostasis reporter strains, molecular genetics, and data recording and analysis.
Supervisor: Rhianna Williams