My main area of scientific interest has always been microbiology and infectious disease. I completed a BSc in Bacteriology at Edinburgh University in 1991, and then joined the Moredun Research Institute in Edinburgh to study for a PhD. My project involved the molecular analysis and characterization of a serine proteinase produced by Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP). MAP is the causative agent of Johne’s Disease, which is an infectious inflammatory condition of the small intestine of ruminants. After completing my PhD in 1995, I followed my interest in infectious disease and joined the Neuropathogenesis Unit (NPU), Institute for Animal Health, in Edinburgh as a Postdoc on a project examining the nature of the infectious agent responsible for prion disease.
Prion diseases are fatal infectious neurodegenerative diseases, which affect animals and humans. These include scrapie, chronic wasting disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in animals, and Kuru and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans. At the time I joined IAH in 1995, evidence of the zoonotic transmission of BSE from cattle to humans in the form of variant CJD (vCJD) had just been discovered, and the pace of research in this area was fast and exciting! I spent 12 years at NPU as Postdoc, Senior Postdoc and Principle Investigator, before the NPU merged with The Roslin Institute in 2007, and became part of the University of Edinburgh.
Through various different projects, I examined the risk of disease zoonosis; nature of the infectious agent; the relationship between misfolded protein aggregates and the presence of prion infectivity; and laterally the “prion-like” spread of protein aggregates in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In 2017, following restructuring at Roslin Institute, I joined Queen Margaret University as a Lecturer in Biological Sciences, to teach Human Physiology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience.
Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience, Disorders of the Nervous System, Neuroscience of Aging.
Prior to joining QMU I was an active research scientist, specializing in the study of Prion diseases, which are fatal infectious neurodegenerative diseases of humans and animals. In particular, I was interested in the nature of the infectious agent responsible for Prion infection. Other interests included the control of protein misfolding in diseases such as Prion disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, and how misfolded/aggregated protein deposits in the brain could lead to the development of neurodegenerative disease.
Rona teaches several different aspects of biological science, including Physiology, Cell Biology, Genetics, Pharmacology and Neuroscience. These are delivered across Dietetics, Nutrition, Podiatry, Physiotherapy, Psychology and Paramedic Science Programmes.
Physiology, Cell Biology and Genetics
Pharmacology, Pharmacology (Paramedic Science), Neurological Physiotherapy
Dissertation, Pharmacology for Podiatrists, Neurological Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy