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Hazel Hall-Roberts

Brain cell biologist

My research focusses on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, which are diseases where brain cells get sick and die. In particular, I study the role of microglia (a type of brain cell) and whether we can improve their function using drugs. My work uses human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), made by reprogramming adult skin cells, and this allows me to grow human microglia in a dish.

I always thought biology was pretty cool, both of my parents were mosquito biologists and my childhood was full of fantastic stories about their adventures in Africa and Asia. Later on, books by the neurologist Oliver Sacks made me fall in love with neuroscience and diseases of the brain. My undergraduate degree was in biochemistry at the University of Bristol in 2008, followed by a PhD at the University of Bath in 2012, and I then moved to the University of Oxford for my postdoctoral research in 2016. I work for the Alzheimer’s Research UK Oxford Drug Discovery Institute, in a collaboration with Dr Sally Cowley at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology. I enjoy sharing my enthusiasm for microglia, in fact the ‘gardening’ analogy was born when I prepared a public talk for the 2017 Pint of Science festival. I have also been involved with stem cell-related activities for visiting school groups.