After 8 years at UCL, our lab is moving to the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is a bittersweet feeling: we’re very excited about the future, but these years at UCL have been nothing short of remarkable for us. We’ve arrived at UCL in late 2010 as first year post-docs and over this period we became Principal Investigators, obtained tenure, and were selected, through a very competitive process, to be among the founding members of the UK Dementia Research Institute at UCL. It has been a truly fantastic time.
This would not have been possible without the exceptional people we were fortunate enough to find to work with us. From our Research Technicians, to our PhD Students, to our Post-docs and Visiting Fellows, each played a key role in helping us get to where we are today. Also critical were our mentors and collaborators, both at UCL as well as outside, not forgetting the IPDGC, ADES and the International DLB Genetics consortium – they all enabled us to do the best science we could, and we look forward to continuing these collaborations from Michigan.
As we prepare to move, it’s a good time to take a step back and reflect on the science we were able to produce in these 8 years. We’ve co-authored over 135 papers (that’s over one paper a month!), published a handful of book chapters, edited one book and obtained over £5M in competitive funding. We’ve led the work on the majority of these papers, but you can easily see how our work is collaborative by the number of papers where we are co-authors (not in first 6 listed authors or in last 2 positions) (Fig 1, A). It is also rewarding to see that our work is cited regularly (Fig 1, B), which suggests that what we do has an impact in the field. With no surprise here, the publication we’ve led with the highest rate of citations per year is the NEJM manuscript detailing the involvement of TREM2 in Alzheimer’s disease, with over 255 cites per year – that’s over 1 citation every couple of days for the past 5 years! However, science and translation to patients’ lives is not all about citations: we have papers describing known mutations in a single rare disease case in journals without impact factors that were just as fulfilling to see published as papers in journals with very high impact factors.
Journal impact factors are far from an accurate measure of real impact, but they are one way to quantify publications (knowing this caveat). When we look at where we have published, the majority of our papers has been published in journals with impact factors less than 12 (Fig 1, C). But in these years at UCL we have also been able to regularly publish a smaller number of papers in higher impact journals. This work has been supported by external funding opportunities – the majority of which we have obtained as Principal Investigators on those grants (Fig 1, D).
We’ve found that one of the most rewarding aspects of our work, has been to see the younger members of our group grow as scientists; from the small(er) projects usually done by MSc students to full PhDs. Seeing how a student improves their writing skills to the point where they can completely draft a paper, or learn enough coding and data analysis to undertake a large-scale sequencing project analysis on their own, has been a real highlight of these past few years.
If you are a student or postdoc with an interest in human genetics and/or neuroscience, we will be opening positions over the next weeks and months. Please drop us a line; we’re always interested in hearing about motivated people who find genetics as fascinating as we do.
We are looking forward to the next stage in our group’s development. We hope we’ll continue to do the best science we can. Onwards and upwards!