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Rene Frank Group
In situ molecular structures of the brain


Rene Frank (Principle Investigator)

Profile: Rene's diverse research experiences bridging structural biology, mouse genetics, neuroscience, and neurodegenerative disease underpin the multidisciplinary ethos in the group.  He started his research career with a PhD under Richard Perham at the University of Cambridge and in close collaboration with Ben Luisi investigated the assembly and catalytic mechanisms of multienzyme complexes by biochemical reconstitution, X-ray crystallography, and EPR.

Following his fond experiences exploring how molecular machines work in central metabolism, Rene used a Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Research Fellowship followed by a Sir Richard Wilson Junior Research Fellowship at Emmanuel College Cambridge, to join Seth Grant's group at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. In Seth's group Rene's research used mouse genetics and human genetics to study glutamatergic synapses. Rene was also invited as a visiting scientist to the MRC LMB by Nigel Unwin, where he learned cryo-electron microscopy (cryoEM).

In 2013 Rene was recruited by Michel Goedert (Head of the Division of Neurobiology, MRC-LMB) to develop a project combining mouse genetics and cryo-electron microscopy to investigate synapses and neurodegeneration. Over the years Seth, Nigel, and Michel have impressed upon him the advantages of studying biology in its native state, which led him to his current program of research.

In 2018, Rene started his own group at the University of Leeds with a University Academic Fellowship following an investment of £11m in cryoEM facilities. At Leeds Rene is combining mouse genetics and cryoEM to investigate in situ molecular structure of the mammalian brain. He is particularly interested in structural mechanisms of synapses, memory, and Alzheimer's disease-associated molecular pathology. Rene is currently funded by a UKRI Future Leader Fellowship 'Seeing inside the brain'.

Beyond science and family Rene enjoys studying chinese (我有时间的时候我要学中文) and mountain sports (running, cycling, and snowboarding).

Conny Leistner (PhD student)

Conny joined the group in October 2018. Conny studied cellular and molecular Neuroscience at the University of Tübingen where she developed an interest in electron microscopy, following a rotation placement at the University of Amsterdam. She obtained her BSc at the University of Applied Sciences Zittau/Görlitz with her final year project at the Leibniz Institut for Learning and Memory.

Megan Lovatt (PhD student)

Meg joined the group October 2019 after having graduated from the University of Leeds with a first-class degree in Pharmacology (BSc, MBiol). During her studies she received funding via the Jennifer Rowles studentship to investigate the applications of histone deacetylase-2 inhibitors in Multiple Sclerosis, supervised by Dr. Ian Wood. Her Master's dissertation, supervised by Dr. Lin-Hua Jiang, focussed on the role of Transient Receptor Potential Melastatin-2 (TRPM2) channels in Alzheimer’s disease-related pericyte dysfunction. Such opportunities developed her interests in neuroscience, inspiring her to pursue a PhD in this field.

Maddie Gilbert (PhD student)

Maddie joined the group October 2021 after having graduated from the University of Leeds with a first-class degree in Neuroscience (BSc, MBiol). During her studies she received funding via the Jennifer Rowles studentship to carry out a sub-tomogram averaging project (during the COVID lockdown). Maddeleine is researching the structural bais of Alzheimer's disease-mediated toxicity in the mammalian brain.

Barbara Altenhuber (Master's student)

Past group members

Ailidh Burgess, Graduate research assistant (2018-2019). Present: PhD Student at Crick Institute, London.

Rene Frank Photo

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