Meet the researcher: Dr Janine Kirby

April 2013

My name is Janine Kirby. My undergraduate degree was in Genetics at the University of Sheffield and I then studied for my PhD at the MRC Human Biochemical Genetics Unit, University College London. My first post-doc job was with the MND Research Group at the University of Newcastle, and I subsequently moved back to the University of Sheffield in 2001. I am now a Non-Clinical Senior Lecturer in Neurogenetics at SITraN

How and why did you get into MND research?

Having completed my PhD at University College London, I wanted to apply my knowledge of genetics to medical research. Professor Pamela Shaw, then at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, advertised a 1 year post to look at the frequency of genetic changes in the SOD1 gene in MND patients from the North East of England. I applied, got the job and seventeen years later, I’m still here! It provides challenging and interesting research, with great colleagues and collaborators across the world.

What is it like working in SITraN?

It’s fantastic! I started off which a small square of lab bench and now have my own office!! SITraN has allowed there to be a much better interaction between the scientists, clinicians and nursing staff, by having us all under one roof. The facilities are state of the art and gain envious glances from our visitors.

Can you briefly describe the research project you are currently working on?

I am currently supervising several PhD and MSc students – their projects either involve screening our MND patient DNA samples for mutations (changes in the DNA sequence) which may cause the disease, or analysing which genes in are switched on or off in patient compared to healthy control individuals.  The overall aim of my research is to identify the biological pathways that are going wrong in MND or to look for markers associated with diagnosis or prognosis.

What do you enjoy most about your job as a researcher?

Several things really, including getting a good result, getting your paper published, getting your grant funded and seeing the students you have supervised graduate.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

My personal highlight would be securing a permanent job as a lecturer at the University of Sheffield, which allows me to continue doing the research I enjoy, in addition to writing grants to organisations for funding new research ideas, writing up results for publication in scientific journals and supervising PhD students.  I have also been part of the team involved in setting up a new MSc Translational Neuroscience course, a 1 year course for students who want to specialise in Neuroscience, and so train the next generation of research scientists.

Who do you admire the most?

The patients and their families for their endless support of the work we do and for participating in our research.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

I enjoy travelling, scuba diving, photography and genealogy – well, what did you expect from a geneticist!