May 26, 2015

Craig '12 Awarded Research Grant for Cambridge Ph.D. Program

Emmanuel alum Michael Craig ’12 is about to embark on a fully-funded, three-year Ph.D. program in clinical neuroscience at the University of Cambridge in England, and he credits his time worth with Emmanuel’s Neuroimmunology Research Project (NIRP) with being the biggest influence on his career choices.

Emmanuel biology alum Michael Craig '12 is about to embark on a fully-funded, three-year Ph.D. program in clinical neuroscience at the University of Cambridge in England, and he credits his time worth with Emmanuel's Neuroimmunology Research Project (NIRP) with being the biggest influence on his career choices.

NIRP is a student-faculty research group founded in 2005 by now Associate Professor of Biology and Associate Dean of Natural Sciences Josef Kurtz and Associate Professor of Biology and department chair Todd Williams that has gained national recognition among peer groups, having pioneered a split-brain technique for evaluating populations of microglia cells, the immune cells of the central nervous system.

"I wanted to be a medical doctor, but after working in their lab and talking to them, I realized that research was a better fit for me. They were, and still are, always supportive of my career and I really couldn't have asked for a better undergraduate research experience," Craig said of Kurtz, Williams and Professor of Biology Joel Kowit.

Craig pursued his interest in brain studies during his senior year at Emmanuel and participated in cellular and molecular research, but he still wanted to explore other techniques. While completing his master's degree in cognitive neuroscience at University College London in England, Craig was introduced to neuroimaging using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which provides insight into the function of individual regions/networks in the brain.

Enjoying this technique, Craig continued to use it while working as a clinical research assistant at Boston Children's Hospital, where he has worked since September 2013. At the hospital, he's studied how morphine treatment effects brain network development in rats; in Cambridge, he will use the technique to study how brain networks are altered in patients with Alzheimer's disease.

According to Craig, his Ph.D. program (and many other Ph.D. programs in the United Kingdom) is shorter than most programs in the United States, because in the UK a student must have a supervisor and project prepared before entering. To receive competitive funding as an international student, a prospective student needs to contact potential supervisors a few months before the application deadline. 

"I think that is the primary reason that I got fully funded. Having a supervisor at the university who you've spoken with a number of times and who is willing to support your application gives you the best chance of success," he said. "If you have a supervisor who wants to work with you, they usually have a way of finding money, whether through the university or through public or private trusts."

Craig's scholarship is a combined award from the Cambridge International Trust and Howard Sidney Sussex College fund.

After three years in Cambridge, Craig hopes to continue academic research as a post-doctoral fellow.

"My long-term goal is to become a professor or researcher at a university or research center," Craig said.

Craig '12 (second from left) with members of his research lab at Children's

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