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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Prize for outstanding young neuroscientist

Published: 13 April 2012

Dr Joanne Bailey has been awarded the Mark A Smith prize by the editors of the Journal of Neurochemistry. This prize recognises the contribution of an outstanding young scientist to an exceptional research paper. Joanne won the prize for work she conducted during her PhD at the University of Southampton. The award was in competition with over 150 eligible papers submitted to this prestigious journal in 2011.

Outstanding young scientist
Joanne Bailey

The paper entitled "In vitro CNS tissue analogues formed by self-organization of reaggregated post-natal brain tissue" describes some of the research performed  while Joanne was working for her PhD, under the supervision of Dr Vincent O'Connor, Dr John Chad, Dr Thelma Biggs and Professor Hugh Perry. This was part of a project funded by a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) CASE award. This work involved an industrial collaboration with Capsant Neurotechnologies, which was originally spun out of University of Southampton in 2002 by its co-founders Dr John Chad, Professor Lars Sundstrom and Dr Ashley Pringle.

During the part of her PhD described in the paper, Joanne was able to tissue-engineer populations of nerve cells into networks that mimic brain tissue.  This involved carefully maturing the nerve cells under laboratory culture conditions. Joanne used several techniques to show that these mimics of brain tissue generated complex networks that produced the kind of signalling seen in the intact brain. These experimental networks, although complex, contain less than one hundred thousand neurones, a tiny fraction of the one hundred billion or so neurones found in the human brain. This means Joanne can generate simplified versions of brain tissue that should allow her, and others, to investigate how the brain works, and why it becomes dysfunctional in diseases associated with mental health (schizophrenia) and dementia (Alzheimer's disease). 

Joanne is a true product of the University of Southampton as she graduated with a first class degree in BSc Biochemistry with Physiology in 2006. In addition to her excellent scientific pedigree she is a keen sailor and found time during her studies to represent Great Britain at the ISAF World Team Racing Championship in Perth 2009. It is however for her scientific contribution that she will receive the $1,000 award at a ceremony at the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies Conference in Barcelona (FENS) 2012.

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