Faculty of Medical Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr Sarah Pickett
Sarah Pickett external fellow

I am a Wellcome Trust Research Career Re-entry fellow (2017-2022), investigating the interactions between mitochondrial and nuclear genetic variations and their impact on mitochondrial disease.

I joined the mitochondrial research group at Newcastle University in November 2015, after a ten-year break from research. My background is in complex disease genetics, having completed my PhD and Wellcome Prize Fellowship at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford. Professors Doug Turnbull and Robert Taylor were able to offer me part-time funding for a year to allow me to develop my project ideas and apply for the re-entry fellowship. This enabled me to develop collaborations that strengthened my application; with Professor Heather Cordell at the Institute of Genetic Medicine and with external collaborators who agreed to provide additional samples to increase the power of my study.

During this year I discussed the application process and my research proposal with previous successful applicants to the Wellcome Career Re-Entry Fellowship scheme, Principle Investigators within my Institute, as well as the research funding development managers who organised a mock interview. Everyone I approached was willing to help and the advice I received was extremely valuable in developing a strong and successful application.

My fellowship is providing opportunities for me to gain training in new techniques that will allow me to develop this new area of research in mitochondrial disease, providing the perfect opportunity to establish myself as an independent researcher.

My project applies the concepts of complex disease genetics to the question of phenotypic variability in mitochondrial disease. I use clinical and genetic data from families who carry the pathogenic mitochondrial DNA variation m.3243A>G in order to identify nuclear genetic variation that modifies clinical phenotype. Understanding what causes the vast clinical variability in m.3243A>G-related disease will give patients and clinicians a much better idea of disease prognosis, enabling improved genetic counselling and advice.