I've always been passionate about research

To mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Head of Research, Dr Jane Haley MBE discusses her role with MND Scotland, her love of research as well as a little about her life and interests outside of science.

Posted : 11/02/2022

Dr Jane Haley MBE joined MND Scotland at the end of 2021 as the organisations Head of Research.

Leading on the development and delivery of MND Scotland's research strategy, Dr Haley works closely with our Research Committee and external partners to drive progress in pioneering MND research across the UK.  

To celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Jane discusses her role with MND Scotland, her love of research as well as a little about her life and interests outside of science, both of which still manage to occasionally overlap.   

Speaking on her love for the world of research and her role at MND Scotland, Jane said: I’ve always been passionate about research - after my PhD I spent 19 years researching how neurones (the cells that make up nerves) adapt to the information they receive, and how they fail and die. I loved hands-on research but in 2006, when my son was still young, I took on the role of Scientific Coordinator for Edinburgh Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. It was a fabulous job, and I spent a really interesting 15 years enabling researchers who were working on conditions affecting all stages of the life-course - from developmental disorders to mental health and resilience, degenerative conditions and old age.  

With a recent upswing in both funding for research and public awareness around MND, Jane has joined MND Scotland at a very inspiring time where a concerted effort to find promising new treatments, capable of vastly improving the lives of people living with motor neurone disease is being made by MND Researchers nationwide. 

“I’m excited about my new role with MND Scotland. One of my first tasks is to help the charity develop a new research strategy. This helps guide how the money raised by our supporters is used to enable research that will 1) push forward our knowledge of the causes and mechanisms of motor neuron disease, 2) hunt for new treatments that will improve life expectancy and, ultimately, identify a cure, 3) identify interventions that can improve the quality of life for people living with MND.”  

Shining a bit of light onto her life outside of Science, Jane told us: “Having moved to Scotland over 20 years ago, I’ve made loads of friends – and they aren’t all scientists!  I’m a Girl Guide leader (the other leaders call me Jane the Brain!) and I’m also Treasurer for Girl Guiding Midlothian. As a result, I’m a dab hand at lighting fires and cooking on an open fire for the whole unit at camp - hot chocolate and dampers are a speciality (and are particularly tasty when infused with wood smoke!).  

“I like unexpected connections, and this has led me to enable several art-science projects. In 2020 and 2021, I co-conceived and curated the 'Cajal Embroidery Project', which brought together 71 neuroscience researchers, artists and crafters from 7 countries to create embroideries based on the amazing, 100-year-old, illustrations by the famous Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal. This has been the project that keeps on giving – it has brought together (virtually) a wonderful group of people who would otherwise never have met. We currently have an exhibition about the project at the Dott Gallery in the new Royal Hospital for Sick Children and Young People in Edinburgh.  We are now sewing together the individual embroideries to make one 81-panel 'Cajal Embroidery Tapestry' - look out for that on display somewhere near you soon!”  

Jane’s love of connecting with people, and helping enable them to achieve their best, led to her being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2019 for services to science engagement and education. As Head of Research, Jane is looking forward to working with her new colleagues at MND Scotland and creating new connections which will enable the charity to better support research, and push forward the hunt for a meaningful treatment for MND.

You can help to support the vital research carried out by Jane and her team by making a donation today. Thank you! 

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