Before training at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Nick Devanney, PhD, had little connection to The Bluegrass State. He is from New England, and his family currently lives there. 

While working at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, he attended a seminar hosted by Linda Van Eldik, PhD, director of the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging (SBCoA). With an interest in Alzheimer’s disease research – and knowing SBCoA was a highly-regarded Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center – he took a “leap of faith” to study in a place nearly 1,000 miles away from anyone he knew.

As of Nov. 1, Dr. Devanney is now permanently tied to Kentucky as one of 19 UK College of Medicine winter 2023 graduates of the PhD and master's programs. His education under SBCoA faculty will allow him conduct research on Alzheimer’s disease, an illness he has witnessed on both sides of his family.

“I always knew I wanted to be a scientist,” he said, “but the impact of Alzheimer’s on my family was what gave me the motivation to pick one thing over the other.” 

Dr. Devanney garnered intensive laboratory research experience with mentor Lance Johnson, PhD, an associate professor and director of graduate studies in the UK College of Medicine Department of Physiology. Under Dr. Johnson’s direction, his project involved the examination of Apolipoprotein E (APOE), the strongest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. He studied how APOE impacts metabolism in microglia and its possible relation to chronic neuroinflammation.

Throughout his studies, Dr. Devanney has been funded fully by an F31 and two T32 fellowships. He published five peer-reviewed articles during graduate school. Along with success in the lab, Dr. Devanney touted his mentor’s networking abilities and go-getter attitude toward seeking grant funding. 

During his training, Dr. Devanney was able to forge connections of his own by attending many conferences across the region and the globe including Vancouver, Canada; St. Louis, Mo.; Niagara Falls; and the prestigious Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Amsterdam, what he called “the biggest one in our field.” In St. Louis, he even won first place in a poster contest for his presentation about APOE. 

“That’s a big deal for students to be able to travel, present their work, and represent their university,” Dr. Devanney said.

After graduation, Dr. Devanney will continue embarking on scientific discoveries for Alzheimer’s disease through a postdoctoral fellowship even further from home at the Buck Institute on Aging in Novato, Calif.

“Alzheimer’s is something that needs to be addressed urgently,” Dr. Devanney said. “I want to help save as many brains as we can.”