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Cara Croft

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Florida

And - Finalist, SET for Britain competition

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It's important to surround yourself with positive people that will support you through ups and downs.

What do you do?

I am a neuroscientist studying what goes wrong in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and whether we can prevent or treat this.

Why did you choose this field?

I was fascinated by the brain and the fact we really do not understand everything about it either in normal health or in disease. I originally wanted to be a medical doctor but during a work experience placement in a hospital whilst at sixth form college, I encountered lots of people who had diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's and thought that I may be able to have a bigger impact on their life by being a scientist and working towards new treatments. 

I was the first person in my family to go to university and subsequently then the first to also go on to get a PhD, so I have learnt so much along the way and been thankful for both female and male role models and mentors who have supported me along the way and advised me on how to make the next steps in my career.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

Becoming a scientist has afforded me a lot of opportunities. One of the highlights was receiving my own project funding to start to understand how one of the proteins that builds up in Alzheimer's disease causes problems in the brain. The fact that a community of scientists decided that my ideas were creative and worth studying was a great validation. I also was chosen to be a finalist in the SET for Britain competition allowing me to present my research to politicians and policy makers which I never would have imagined ever doing.

Why do you love working in STEM?

My favourite thing about being a scientist is when you have a really exciting new finding in the lab and at that moment you're the only person that knows that. Then it's your job to repeat the experiments and find out whether it is really true, and share the findings with the rest of the lab and then the rest of the world in order to advance science. Nothing ever beats that feeling.

Best advice for next generation?

You should always focus on what you can do, what you want to do and how you're going to achieve it and never focus on hesitations or doubts. I think it's important to surround yourself with positive people that will support you through ups and downs.

Inspo quote / fun fact

I have always been inspired by the story of Rita Levi-Montalcini who set up a lab in her bedroom whilst fleeing the Nazis in WW2. Her dedication to science was admirable and for her to then go on to win a Nobel prize was deserved.