When Kevin Mcghee starts talking about genetics, it’s hard not to get caught up in his obvious enthusiasm and passion for the subject. He’s worked at BU for five years, teaching students at every level and conducting research that’s been internationally recognised.
However, he’s keen to highlight the importance of collaboration when it comes to research in this field - for Kevin, the study of genetics shouldn’t be siloed off, it should be part of a bigger picture and that requires collaboration.
“It’s about a lot more than just biology, it’s about psychology, sociology, about how you deal with everything that life throws at you,” he enthuses.
This means venturing into the areas of neuroscience and psychology to gain a greater understanding of how the brain works. “Genetics has reached a good stage - all the research we’ve gathered so far is great, it proves and defends much of what we know from neuroscience.
“But the next stage is to look at how what happens in life can affect how your genes switch on and off - or what we call gene expression,” Kevin continues, adding that collaboration across disciplines is key if this channel of research is going to progress.
Thanks to his connection with Professor Edwin van Teijlingen in the Faculty of Health & Social Sciences at BU, Kevin has been able to pursue this kind of collaboration, but it’s something he’s keen to see more postgraduate students in his field embracing.
A Master’s by Research (MRes) is the ideal way to approach this sort of cooperation, he explains. “An MRes is great for this, because it’s based on a research question. What you need is someone who is really enthusiastic, who says ‘I can see that link but I don’t know how to get there’. That’s when we can step in and give them two supervisors, each from a different field, to help them make that connection.”
He believes geneticists, psychologists, neuroscientists, epidemiologists and psychiatrists all need to work more closely together to begin putting the pieces of the puzzle together and to advance our understanding of the human brain and body.
“We need more multi-disciplinary students, people who have a range of multi-disciplinary skills and who are able to communicate with people from different backgrounds to drive their research forwards. Working in this way will be incredibly beneficial to the next generation of researchers,” Kevin tells us.
“We already have multi-disciplinary researchers, but I think what we need now is the next step up from that, people with diverse skills as well as diverse knowledge, and an MRes would be the ideal platform to help develop that.”