Dr Christy Hung: Race Against Dementia Fellow, University College London

Dr Hung has relocated from Cambridge to London to become the Race Against Dementia Fellow. Dr Hung’s project, funded by Race Against Dementia, will investigate the role of autophagy, which is a sort of cellular ‘garbage disposal’ system that remove and recycle damaged material to prevent the build up of toxic waste within the cells. Over the five-year project, Dr Hung will investigate whether boosting this ‘garbage disposal’ system could present a new approach to prevent, halt or reverse the symptoms of the disease.

"Getting this fellowship is a career-defining opportunity. I am very grateful for Sir Jackie’s vision in bringing Formula One to dementia research. As far as I know, Formula one is famous for precision, innovation and automation. Formula One engineers are very good at problem solving. That is why I am very eager to learn from my mentors, who are world-leaders in their fields, and apply their mind-sets into my research. I truly believe that by working closely together we can create life-changing breakthroughs."

Dr Christy Hung

Published 6th June 2020

Focus, Constant Learning and Winning Culture – lessons from Professor Mark Jenkins

Like many researchers around the world whose laboratories are shut down, RAD fellows are exploring ways to stay productive and keep our scientific research going through the coronavirus pandemic. We are using this time to reflect on the progress of our own research project, plan for future experimental work and undertake career development activities.

For example, we had a virtual workshop – ‘Performance at the Limit: Lessons from Formula 1 Motor Racing’ with Professor Mark Jenkins (Professor of Business Strategy and Group Head of Strategy at Cranfield School of Management) during the lockdown.

Professor Jenkins is an incredibly enthusiastic and engaging speaker. He incorporated real examples and stories throughout his presentation to demonstrate what makes a successful Formula 1 team, and more importantly, how we could apply these valuable lessons to dementia research. I feel particularly inspired when Professor Jenkins highlighted the importance of constant learning and self-review – F1 racing teams spend two hours at the track after each race to discuss what went wrong even when they win a race! I believe it is important that we make the best use of every opportunity to review our performance and obtain constructive feedback, such as presenting our work in group meetings, departmental seminars and international conferences.

Professor Jenkins also highlighted how teamwork and collaborations play a huge role in cultivating the winning culture in F1 teams – each member in the team thinks as an individual but works together as a team. These ideologies remind me of my visit to Campus Biotech, a truly vibrant and collaborative life sciences hub in Geneva, with the RAD team in November last year. I believe Campus Biotech is a good example to demonstrate the possibility of creating an innovative and collaborative environment that brings every scientist together. By bringing together expertise from a variety of biotechnology and life sciences disciplines under one roof, it allows scientists to work as a team and translate cutting-edge research into clinical solutions.

The RAD Fellows (Ellen, Claire and Christy) along with Mark and Paul Stewart and Penny Moyle, visited Campus Biotech last year.
The RAD Fellows and Dr Mark Jenkins

Published October 2nd 2020

Better life, better performance — my journey with Hintsa Performance to build a healthy and balanced life

As part of the on-going personal development programme, RAD has recently partnered with Hintsa Performance, a world leader in human high-performance coaching, to provide one-to-one personalised coaching to our fellows.

F1 is undoubtedly one of the most competitive sports in the world where optimal performance and exceptional attention to detail are required at all times. The experiences of working in this fast-paced environment inspired Dr Aki Hintsa to start Hintsa Performance. And he developed the philosophy that ‘good life leads to high performance – when you take care of your well-being and the different elements of it you will be able to function at your full potential.’

In my first session with Dan Sims, senior performance coach at Hintsa, we discussed finding my core values – what is important to me? What defines me and what kind of characteristics do I want to represent in life? I believe identifying my core values is an important step to help me find my purpose in life. More importantly, to translate it into action, for example, by aligning my life path to what matters the most to me.

Another important area that we discussed was about finding the source of motivation and identifying obstacles that are preventing me from living according to my core values. In doing so, I can create a timeline and develop a concrete action plan to tackle each obstacle, getting one step closer to my ideal target situation.

The advice I received from Dan has helped me to stay focused and productive when I am in the lab. I really look forward to continuing this journey with Hintsa Performance in the next few months and learning how to increase my performance and productivity through a healthy work-life balance.

Dr Christy Hung progress update: September 2019-September 2020

Presented to RAD Board of Trustees, Ambassadors and Scientific Advisors on 8th October 2020.

Overview of research

Race Against Dementia Fellow, Dr Christy Hung is based at University College London. She is exploring how genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease disrupt the brain’s waste disposal system. The waste disposal process known as autophagy bags up misfolded proteins ready for destruction and recycling. Normally this goes on behind the scenes without any glitches, however, when there is too much protein building up, the cell’s waste disposal system can become overwhelmed.

Key progress in year 1

A year into her project, Christy has successfully generated human nerve cells without a gene called SORL1 by using a cutting-edge gene silencing technique. She confirmed this by using various biochemical techniques. She discovered that SORL1 deficiency impairs the waste disposal systems of the cells and leads to the accumulation of toxic waste.

To disseminate her exciting findings, Christy actively participates in weekly group meetings, departmental seminars and conferences. And she has been holding one-to-one meetings with her supervisors every fortnight to discuss her research progress.

Christy also contributed to a successful application to a funding scheme by Professor Rick Livesey’s lab. This funding offers an exciting opportunity for her to work collaboratively at the interface between academic and industrial target and drug discovery and to learn a range of cutting-edge techniques. This is aligned with one of the major objectives of the Race for Dementia fellowship scheme, which is to facilitate diverse secondments that foster interdisciplinary and interinstitutional interactions on a global scale.

Other research-related activities

Christy is recently appointed as a teaching associate for an MSc program at UCL. She is responsible for delivering lectures and acts as a supervisor for project students. She found contributing to the teaching and training of future scientists a deeply rewarding experience.

Impact of COVID-19

Like many researchers around the world whose laboratories shut down, Christy explored ways to stay productive and keep her scientific research going through the coronavirus pandemic. She used the lockdown period to reflect on the progress of her research project, plan for future experimental work and undertake career development activities.

She has conducted a virtual workshop – ‘Performance at the Limit: Lessons from Formula 1 Motor Racing’ with Professor Mark Jenkins (Professor of Business Strategy and Group Head of Strategy at Cranfield School of Management) and had public speaking training workshop with Lee Bowman from the Kingstree Group during the lockdown. The training with Lee has improved her public speaking skills, preparing her to be an effective ambassador for Race Against Dementia.

RAD developmental programs

One of the objectives of Race Against Dementia is to embed Formula 1 attitude and technology to drive culture change in dementia research. To achieve this objective, Christy visited Red Bull, McLaren and Geneva Campus Biotech with the rest of the RAD team in 2019. Visiting Campus Biotech was an absolutely incredible experience for her. And she thought that Campus Biotech is a beautiful example to demonstrate the possibility of creating a collaborative environment that brings everyone together.

As part of the on-going personal development programme, RAD has recently partnered with Hintsa Performance, a world leader in human high-performance coaching, to provide one-to-one personalised coaching to the fellows. Christy found the coaching sessions with Hintsa Performance really useful for helping her to find her core values in life and aligning her life and career path to what matters the most to her. She is really looking forward to continuing this journey with Hintsa Performance in the next few months and learning how to build a healthy and balanced life.

Publications and presentations

In June, Christy wrote a blog post on the virtual workshop – ‘Performance at the Limit: Lessons from Formula 1 Motor Racing’ with Professor Mark Jenkins (Professor of Business Strategy and Group Head of Strategy at Cranfield School of Management) for the Race Against Dementia website.

In October, Christy wrote another blog post sharing her experiences of working with Hintsa Performance for the Race Against Dementia website.