SITraN Open Day 2015 – Highlights

On Friday 17th July 2015 SITraN opened its doors to the public for an afternoon of talks, tours and demonstrations. The yearly event gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the institute’s research into motor neuron disease (MND) and related disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Visitors received a warm welcome by SITraN Director Prof Dame Pam Shaw and an update on last year’s highlights. Guest of Honour Sally Light, Chief Executive of the MND Association, presented the charity’s vision and work in partnership with SITraN praising the multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to developing new treatments for MND. Short talks by MND Association/Kenneth Snowman Lecturer Dr Richard Mead, Parkinson’s UK Fellow Dr Heather Mortiboys and Alzheimer’s Society Fellow Dr Claire Garwood followed. The speakers who all received prestigious charity awards for their research presented current strategies for therapy development in MND, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s focusing on the role of astrocytes, star-shaped brain cells that support nerve cells, and mitochondria, the cell’s energy generators, which show similar functional defects across neurodegenerative diseases.

 Astrocytes (left) and mitochondria (right).
Astrocytes (left), star-shaped brain cells that surround and support nerve cells, and mitochondria (right), the cell’s energy generators, play important roles in neurodegenerative diseases.

During the refreshment break visitors were treated to a selection of cakes and cookies home baked by SITraN staff and students.

SITraN Open Day - Cakes and Bakes
SITraN stuff showed off their baking skills and treated their visitors to a fantastic selection of cakes.

Guests had a chance to chat with the researchers and browse the information stands provided by Parkinson’s UK, the Alzheimer’s Society and the South Yorkshire MND Association. SITraN PhD student Cassy Ashman presented her exhibition “MND: from Loss to Hope”, a joint project created with art therapist Cecilie Browne for the Sheffield Festival of the Mind to generate MND awareness. The research advisory groups for MND ( and Dementia were also present with posters and information for anyone interested to join. The groups are hosted by SITraN and members are critically involved in many of the centre’s clinical research projects e.g. the “telehealth in MND” project (TiM), the customisable MND neck collar and the new “myNIV web resource for non-invasive ventilation in MND” (

SITraN Open Day - Information stands
Visitors took the chance to chat with our researchers and have a look at the information stands provided from our charity partners MND Association, Parkinson’s UK and Alzheimer’s Society.

A team of SITraN volunteers then took the visitors on a tour to have a look into the laboratories and visit work stations especially set up for the Open Day to discover more about the research taking place at SITraN.  Tours were organised around three themes including “Gene Expression”, “Drug Discovery” and “Clinical Research” ranging from basic science to pre-clinical drug development to clinical trials and assistive technologies for patients. Guests particularly enjoyed getting hands-on extracting DNA from strawberries, using sophisticated microscopes and learning about memory tests as used in the Sheffield memory clinic among many other fascinating demonstrations on offer.

Open Day 4
Our team of tour guides (top left) and a view into some of our work stations: Extracting DNA from strawberries (top right); looking at glowing zebrafish under the microscope (bottom left); memory tests with our dementia researchers (bottom right).

A big Thank-you to all volunteers and helpers on the day and to all our visitors who made the day a fantastic success.

For more images of our Open Day, please head to our album “SITraN Open Day 2015” on our Facebook page. To see some of the feedback and comments of our visitors on Twitter have a look at #SITraN or follow us @neuroshef.