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Research Assistant

I graduated from Heriot-Watt University with a BSc in Applied Psychology in the summer of 2016. In the 4th year of my degree I conducted my dissertation project in the Memory Lab under the supervision of lab leader Dr Michaela Dewar. My project investigated whether people who report being visual or verbal learners benefit from this specific style of learning. I was awarded the Heriot-Watt University Brotherton Award for an outstanding research dissertation.

In Spring 2017, I returned to the Memory Lab as a Research Assistant to work on a project investigating the suitability of immersive virtual reality (presented via a head mounted display) as a potential tool for cognitive assessment and intervention in healthy older adults and people with Alzheimer’s disease. This pilot project was funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK Scotland Network Centre as part of a grant awarded to Dr Michael Craig (PI) and Dr Michaela Dewar (CoI). This project provided me with further experience of psychological testing and new skills in the application of virtual reality technology in research. Results from this project are very promising and I am hopeful that they will be published in the near future.

In June 2018 I began working as a Research Assistant on a new project within the Memory Lab. This project is investigating how the brain processes new memories in the minutes that follow new learning, and how this process changes in older age and Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, I will use low-density EEG methods in healthy older adults to record brain activity as people complete a memory test procedure. This project could yield important implications for our understanding of memory in older populations, and for the development of new mobile diagnostic methods for Alzheimer’s Disease. Like my previous position, this project is supported by Alzheimer’s Research UK Scotland Network Centre as part of a grant awarded to Dr Michael Craig (PI), Dr Michaela Dewar (CoI), and Dr Mario Parra (CoI) (Heriot-Watt Neurophysiology Lab). This project will provide me with new skills in conducting psychological research with electrophysiological (EEG) recordings.

In December 2018, I began working as a Research Assistant on a new project in the Memory Lab, which is funded by Carnegie Trust. This project involves developing novel memory-related markers of healthy ageing and Alzheimer’s disease. The development of these markers is important as they could develop greater understanding the trajectory of memory in relation to healthy ageing and that of Alzheimer’s disease. This project will allow me to develop the skills and abilities necessary as an early career researcher.

Aside from my Research Assistant role, I volunteer for Alzheimer Scotland in my local area. In this role I provide social and emotional support for those affected by dementia. I’ve found that my research experience has provided people with comfort, an ease in understanding information and a knowledge of how to avoid false information when doing independent research. I am also passionate about supporting equality and have been involved in “LGBT Health & Wellbeing” as both a social events and wellbeing volunteer. In my role as a volunteer, I provide social support, encouraging people to interact with each other, provide information about LGBT events and assist in quarterly event planning. As a wellbeing volunteer, I facilitate discussion around mental health, perceptions of the LGBTQIA+ communities and encourage members to be open as far as they are comfortable.

I am very interested in memory in human health and disease and I am passionate about developing a better understanding of how memory changes in older adults and dementia so that new interventions and diagnostic tools can be developed. I believe that technological advances such as virtual reality and EEG methods can provide such opportunities. I hope to complete a PhD in dementia research so that I can pursue a career in this field and ultimately support the wellbeing of those living with dementia, and their friends and families.

                      Shanstrick