Written by Dr Catherine Hodgson
Ion Channels and Patch-Clamp
In 2014, I graduated from the University of Manchester with a degree in Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology with Industrial/Professional Experience. In the first weeks of my degree, my classmates and I were asked by our personal tutor (an electrophysiologist) to give a group presentation on Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann, and their 1991 Nobel Prize for the development of the patch clamp technique. Although my undergraduate studies were very niche and covered a wide range of both neuroscience and psychology topics, ion channels and patch clamp continued to fascinate me whilst others seemed to shy away. Thus, I was very excited to gain an industrial placement position at Novartis, Horsham, where I used the automated QPatch system to screen compounds against TMEM16A and to conduct a mutational study investigating both channel function and compound binding. There, I also learnt a lot about the drug discovery process and the undeniable value of multidisciplinary research.
A Different Path
Circumstances led me on a slightly different path post-degree. I first worked in the third sector in research developing a mental health programme for drug and alcohol treatment services, and then on a neuroimaging project at the University of Manchester studying the effects of maternal mental illness on the development of language recognition in infants. Although I value those years for the skills and maturity I gained, I missed life in the lab and ion channels.
Back to the World of Ion Channels!
In 2018, a position opened up at the University of Leeds for a Research Assistant in Ion Channel Pharmacology. The interview for this position introduced me to a couple of academics at Leeds who encouraged me to keep pursuing a PhD rather than one year of postgraduate study. I took their advice and that year I commenced my PhD in Leeds with Drs Jon Lippiat and Ste Muench examining the molecular and structural bases of the Kv4.2 complex. Throughout my PhD, I expanded my lab skillset to include some structural techniques and manual patch clamp. Although I quickly appreciated that you cannot learn patch clamp from a textbook or watching someone else and it had to be a case of failing a thousand times over at first, I soon found my enthusiasm for ion channels again.
Beyond my PhD and starting at Metrion
Considering my career post-PhD, I felt I wanted variety and to venture back into ion channel drug discovery. My PhD supervisor, Jon, gave the first Metrion webinar on KNa1.1 inhibitors and through him, the webinar series and my own research, I was impressed to learn about the range of services Metrion offers, what I could be taught, and the values the company upholds. Thus far, everyone has been very welcoming and using the QPatch again has been like riding a bike!