Pint of Science – Making and Maintaining Connections


On Monday 18th May at The Red Lion, Dr Katrin Deinhardt and Dr Mariana Vargas-Caballero will be talking about the Human brain and its complexity, how that complexity is built up from fundamental cellular structures, and the tools and techniques used to help unlock the secrets of this fascinating organ.

Dr Katrin Deinhardt describes herself as a cellular neurobiologist working on understanding the functionality of neurons in the brain. She is fascinated with trying to understand the nature of how individual neurons work, how they connect with and signal each other, and how their interconnections can morph and change with time.

Having trained as a biochemist in her undergraduate years, Katrin decided to undertake a PhD with Cancer Research UK, where she studied the phenomenon of ‘membrane trafficking’, describing how various proteins move about and find their targets within cells. It was during her PhD, when she happened to study the uptake and transport of Tetanus in neuron cells, that Katrin was inspired by how neurons work. Upon completing her PhD, Katrin decided to move to New York University where she joined the molecular neurobiology department as a post-doctoral researcher.


Are there any significant applications for her work? Yes. As Katrin points out, if we can understand the fundamental processes behind how individual neurons form and lose connections, then we can begin to understand what causes these neurons to lose their patterns of connectivity in patients with neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. This would allow us to invent early-stage tests and preventative treatments for such diseases. In addition, if we know how these neurons connect and communicate with each other, we can find optimal targets for these treatments.

In her childhood, Katrin credits her father as being her biggest mentor for providing her with an environment where her innate curiosity was encouraged, and the process of discovery through creating a mess in the kitchen was allowed (as long as it was cleaned up after). To anyone interested in a career in science Katrin’s advice is, “Find a PhD that fascinates and challenges you. Do what fascinates you and everything else will fall into place.”

Mariana in the lab

While Katrin will be talking about the development of the brain, Dr Vargas-Caballero will look at how we learn and remember things. Mariana’s research is in the mechanisms at the syanpses that are involved in memory. After completing her BSc in biology in Mexico, she moved to Cambridge to do a PhD in neuroscience, then worked in research with the Wellcome Trust for a number of years before she came to Southampton as a researcher and lecturer. The main aim of her work is in understanding how memories become disrupted and are lost in sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease.


You can hear both Katrin and Mariana talk about their research in brain development, memory and learning, by booking tickets here and heading to The Red Lion on Southampton High St on Monday 18th May.

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