Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize 2021 – Robert Hillary
I am delighted to have received the Sir Kenneth Mather Memorial Prize. I want to extend my gratitude to the Genetics Society and the University of Birmingham. I would also like to thank my brilliant PhD supervisors Dr Riccardo Marioni, Dr Kathryn Evans, Prof Craig Ritchie, Prof Ian Deary and thesis chair Prof Caroline Hayward who nominated me for this award. I feel very fortunate to have had such supportive supervisors and mentors to guide me through my PhD and beyond.
I embarked on a Wellcome-funded PhD programme in Translational Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. My PhD thesis was titled: ‘A multi-omics approach to understand the role of plasma proteins in cognitive ageing and dementia’. The overarching aim of my work was to determine whether blood-based molecular markers can predict dementia risk. First, I performed genome- and epigenome-wide association studies on the levels of over 400 blood proteins measured in either The Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 or Generation Scotland. I applied these data to causal analysis methods and found a small number of blood proteins whose levels might causally associate with dementia risk. Second, I showed that an existing blood-based predictor of mortality termed ‘DNAm GrimAge’ robustly associated with multiple measures of brain health but did not associate with the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.
I am now working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Genetics and Cancer, Edinburgh and hope to pursue a fellowship to continue my work in molecular epidemiology and common disease.