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Committee introductions – Lizzie Hill

Over the coming weeks and months we will be introducing our wonderful committee members, sharing more information about them through interviews which will be posted here, on our website. Having recently won the Best Junior Oral Communication Award at the Prion 2023 conference, we thought we would start with Lizzie Hill, a member of the committee who is also a PhD student working in the field of prion disease.

Could you introduce yourself and your professional role?

My name is Elizabeth (Lizzie) Hill and I am a final year PhD student at the MRC Prion Unit at UCL in London exploring the role of a genetic risk factor in prion disease and related dementias.

What does a typical working day involve/look like for you?

I spend the majority of my day in the laboratory conducting experiments. Alongside this, I review the literature on my topic of research, write up results and plan future experiments.

How did you become involved with the CJD Support Network, and why did you want to be involved?

When I started my PhD I reached out to the CJD support network to see if I could become a volunteer. From a young age, I have always been incredibly involved in volunteering and it is something that means a lot to me. It is important to me to actively engage with patients and families affected by prion disease so I better understand what the priorities and challenges are. Ultimately, my motivation for conducting research is for this to incrementally make a difference in the future to people affected by prion disease.

What is your role in the network?

I help with the newsletter, mediating support groups, making posters and helping with other charity activities as needs arise. I always attend the family day to meet with patients and families to provide support and informally talk about my research. I am also now a member of the committee.

What do you see as the benefits/what is the importance of researchers engaging with patients and families?

It enables me to keep patients at the forefront of my mind when conducting research. Lab work can sometimes be hard. Sometimes experiments fail. Other times, you can be spending countless hours optimising a procedure. But engaging with patients and families makes me hugely motivated to persevere through these challenges and it makes me work harder than ever. I have also had multiple people feedback to me how reassured they are to know research is ongoing, which is not always known without these public engagement activities.

You recently won Best Junior Oral Communication Award at the Prion 2023 conference – congratulations! How did it feel winning the award and can you tell us a bit about what you presented?

It was certainly a surprise as this was my first oral presentation at an international conference. But I felt incredibly honoured by the recognition. I talked about work I have been doing to explore the role of a genetic risk factor, syntaxin-6, in prion disease and related dementias using different disease models. If you would like to hear more about this work, I wrote a short article summarising the results which can be found HERE.

What are some of your interests/hobbies outside of prion research?

It is a bit niche but I really enjoy making personalised cards. I have always enjoyed art so it is a nice way to maintain some creativity and to send people surprise post.

If you could send one message to people with a personal connection to prion disease, what would it be?

Surround yourself with supportive people. The CJD Support Network is always there to provide a listening ear and support you in any way we can. Never feel alone.

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