BSCB PhD Award – Raff Medal Winner 2022: Florence Young

Raff PhD Medal Winner 2022

Florence Young

Florence obtained her combined undergraduate and Masters degree in Biochemistry (MBiochem) with Honours from the University of Oxford in 2017. During her Masters she joined Professor Ilan Davis’ lab in the Department of Biochemistry to study cytoplasmic mRNA localisation in the Drosophila larval brain. Following this, Florence completed her PhD in the lab of Dr Simon Bullock at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

Florence’s PhD research investigated links between neurodegenerative disease and impairment of microtubule-related processes. Her project focused on the most common inherited form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), for which there is currently no cure. By combining single-molecule imaging of purified factors in vitro with genetic and imaging-based analyses in vivo, Florence’s work revealed that disease-associated peptides bind the unstructured tails of microtubules and thereby impede motility of microtubule motors and dysregulate microtubule nucleation and growth. This discovery points to a novel pathomechanism for this disease and highlights opportunities for therapeutic intervention.

During her PhD, Florence collaborated with neuroscientists, stem cell biologists and clinicians, and communicated her findings at national and international conferences. Part of her work, performed in collaboration with Philip Van Damme’s group at KU Leuven in Belgium, was recently published in Science Advances (doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abg3013).

Florence was also actively engaged in activities away from the bench. She ran two international student symposia, organised numerous informal student networking opportunities and careers events through her role as president of the LMB Graduate Student Association, and participated in several public engagement events. She also undertook a three-month UKRI Research Policy Internship, which involved collaborating with senior academics to communicate scientific research to policy makers in Government.

Florence will be working as a post-doc in the Bullock lab for the next year in order to complete other projects on the contribution of microtubule dysregulation to neurodegenerative disease.

You can follow Florence @FlorenceLYoung on Twitter.

The medal will be awarded during the next joint BSCB/BSDB meeting which will be held on 03-06 April 2022.

The BSCB PhD Award – Raff Medal was established in 2020  to recognise BSCB PhD students who have made outstanding contributions to UK/Ireland cell biology. The medal has been named after Professor Martin Raff who was the president of BSCB from 1992-1995. Martin was instrumental in setting up and running the first 4-year PhD graduate programme in Molecular Cell Biology at the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology (LMCB) at UCL.