School of Biomedical, Nutritional and Sport Sciences

Staff Profiles

Dr Harley Stevenson-Cocks

Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences

Background

Summary
  • BSc (Hons) Human Physiology, University of Leeds (2012-2015)
  • PhD Biomedical Science, University of Leeds (2015-2019)
  • Research Fellow in Cardiovascular Science, University of Leeds (2019-2020)
  • Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences, Newcastle University (2020-present)

Biography

Following my BSc in Human Physiology at the University of Leeds, I undertook a PhD in the School of Biomedical Sciences at Leeds in the field of computational cardiology, developing a novel biophysical model of cardiac electrophysiology and calcium handling for rat ventricular myocytes, for use in investigating the role(s) of electrical remodelling (as seen in diseases such as heart failure) in the development of cardiac arrhythmias. I remained at Leeds following my PhD as a Research Fellow in Cardiovascular Science, extending work from my PhD to explore whether exercise is beneficial for reducing arrhythmia development in heart failure, using a combined experimental and computational approach. I joined Newcastle University in May 2020 as a Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences.

Teaching

CMB1004 Cell Biology

CMB1005 Practical Skills in Biomedical & Biomolecular Sciences I (Module Leader)

PSC2002 Membrane Transport and Cell Signalling in Health and Disease

BMS3016 Science Communication (Module Leader)

CMB3001 Research Design Project

Research

Computational modelling of cardiac physiology

My research interests are in the use of computational models of cardiac electrophysiology and calcium handling to explore how pro-arrhythmic activity arises from remodelling associated with disease states (such as heart failure), whether exercise ameliorates or alters such activity, and the use of experimental techniques (such as optical mapping and diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging) to complement and validate such models. 

Cardiac arrhythmias and heart failure

Over 500,000 people in the UK alone are living with heart failure, and up to 50% of these patients are likely to die suddenly from sudden cardiac death, mostly as a result of lethal arrhythmias such as ventricular fibrillation (VF). In VF, the heart’s normal rhythm is disturbed and there is continuous re-excitement of the same areas of tissue, resulting in a loss of synchronised contraction of cardiac muscle, which compromises the circulation of the blood, leading to death. Heart failure, when cardiac muscle is unable to sufficiently pump blood to meet the body’s demands, increases the risk of developing such lethal arrhythmias.

The multi-scale nature of cardiac arrhythmias means that the underlying mechanisms are difficult to dissect using traditional experimental techniques, however computational models of cardiac electrophysiology provide useful tools to explore the processes that result in arrhythmias. My research focuses on using biophysically-detailed computational models of the heart (at the sub-cellular, cellular, tissue and organ levels) to examine the roles of structural (anatomical) and functional (electrophysiological) changes seen in heart failure on the development of cardiac arrhythmias.

Pedagogical research

I am passionate about high-quality student-focused teaching, as well as maximising the student learning experience, and maintain a strong interest in conducting pedagogical research. I am a keen proponent of public engagement with science and engaging positively with university recruitment through open/visit days.

Publications